Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rice Salad with Artichoke Hearts, Tomatoes, and Olives: The elephant (futon) in the room

When we moved back to the Bay Area from Korea, we almost doubled our home square footage. Our apartment in Korea was a very comfortable 1400 square feet and our new home almost doubled that. We were increasing our family by another 25% (I was pregnant with Son) and the bigger home in the neighborhood that we loved was God's blessing to us.

But the bigger home suddenly meant that all the stuff that had been stored and squirreled away in Sister-in-law's home, Parents' home and Brother's home all suddenly had a place to come to - our home. Father in particular, upon hearing of our pending move and our larger home in the Bay Area, bellowed to Mother, "It's time to move all that stuff up there" and essentially sent two Brothers on an errand from the other side -move up all your sister's stuff and help the 7 month pregnant sister in unpack and organize the house. The two dutifully came up with boxes upon boxes of things that I had stored in Parents' home for the past 7 years of living abroad. All of it came and Brothers were awesome at unpacking, carrying boxes and basically taking orders from a very very cranky sister.

Along with the move of my personal effects came Husband's series of things that had been in storage. Keep in mind that he had already dragged things TO Hong Kong, and then TO Korea and then BACK to the Bay Area, but there were things that he had left behind - many many things. Some were boxes of books that he had read in college to clothes that he had worn in college and refused to throw away. On top of those things came lots of personal mementos and memories with which he could not part. Husband, in that regard, is far more sentimental than I. (He has in a box, all the cards and letters I have ever written to him. If he asked me for the reciprocal same, I would say, "I recycled them.") Sister-in-law and Mother-in-law had stored for him, golf clubs, books, towels, dishes from his bachelor days...and the pièce de résistance, a futon he had used in business school on the east coast, that had somehow made its way to the Bay Area. I remember distinctly at one point, Sister in Law mentioning that she had found a buyer for it (this is while we were in Korea) and Husband bellowed into the phone, "DO NOT SELL THE FUTON! I LOVE IT."

Initially I tried to fight the futon. I said, "It's old. It's dusty. We don't need it." Husband had an answer to each of my protests. It eventually made its way into our expanded space. The mattress? Lumpy and uncomfortable. The frame? Still in decent condition but not really anything to want to cling to. The functionality? Not much as I can't stand lounging on it (the most uncomfortable thing ever) and occasionally I will catch Son or Daughter passed out on it. The look? Ugly...and just takes up too much space. When people come and see the space it is in, which is the children's play and work room, they say, "Oh - a futon." They don't really know what to make of it, and honestly, neither do I. (I mean what - is this a college dorm room?)

Finally over the weekend, as Husband insisted I sit next to him and watch TV (and not blog as I normally would have been apt to do) I quietly said, "I don't want to sit on the futon. I'll sit on the floor in front of you, but not on that lumpy uncomfortable thing." The haze over his eyes suddenly seemed to clear and he said, "You're right. It's time to get rid of it. It takes up too much room and isn't really that useful." I shook my head in disbelief and said, "What? You're ready to let it go?" He nodded, and we started looking at sofas. "It's time to move on," he said.

Now officially, we haven't actually BOUGHT a new sofa, nor has the futon officially LEFT the space - but the idea - it's out there. The idea of letting these old things go and moving on to new things, and that idea, of getting rid of this old lug of a thing, is exciting to me. I thought in the back of my mind that for the rest of my adult life, that futon would be a part of my living area, a complete eyesore testimony to my inability to eliminate it from my life, but I am happy to say that I am wrong.

In celebration for all things new, I decide to attempt a completely new recipe that I had never tried before - rice salad. Prior to this attempt at making it, I had eaten it ONE time at a school/work picnic, and the person who made it, made it fantastically. I wanted to pick up the bowl and run home with it. But I never saw that rice salad again, nor have I ever eaten rice salad since. (I think it's almost 17 years ago I ate it.)

I simply went with the flavors and things I remembered from the rice salad that many years ago. I don't remember basil being in that salad, but I thought it would be a great addition. I do recall tasting mayo in the original version, but I wanted to lighten this one up (and make it Son friendly as he loves rice) and I decided to use arborio rice in order to get a better texture.

The result? Yummy. Really yummy. If you like fried rice - this is not for you. This is completely different from what you expect - but it is, in many ways, similar to a pasta salad - just made with rice. IT is gluten-free (YAY) since it's not pasta and a great side dish to any summer that you have.

Come to think of it, I may have to grab a bowl, sit down on the futon and celebrate all things new.

Rice Salad with Artichokes, Tomatoes, and Olives
Serves 10-12

3 cups water
¼ cup olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups Arborio rice
1 tablespoon salt
12 oz marinated artichokes, drained, liquid reserved
16 olives, sliced in half
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
¼ cup basil chiffonade (thinly sliced basil)
¼ cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons reserved artichoke liquid

Optional - 1 cup of feta cheese (use if you desire)

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook until onion is translucent. Add water all at once. Bring water to a boil and then add rice and salt. Cook, stirring, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let cook for 20 minutes.

Spread rice onto a rimmed baking sheet. Let cool to room temperature.

Combine olives, artichoke hearts, and tomatoes. In a large bowl toss rice and with olives, artichoke hearts and tomatoes. Pour over lemon juice and reserved artichoke liquid. Sprinkle basil and do a final toss. Season with black pepper if desired. Add feta if desired (Salad can be made up to this point and refrigerated overnight.)

Printable recipe


unjung said...

looks delicious!!

Helen Park said...

hahahaha! i'm celebrating with you. my husband also has a raggedy old futon. he is not a sentimental person but he sanded and put 3 coats of polyurethane on the frame. my poor children will have to take this thing with them to college.

and, recipe looks great! can't wait to try it!

Kathi-Ann said...

This looks amazing. I saw it over on food gawker and was mesmerized. I'm going to have to make this this weekend.


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