Ok, I admit it, I invented this recipe's name … but I invented the recipe, so I can claim the right to name it, or not? But I chose this name not by accident: both the rice and the ingredients I used for this recipe smelled like the Mediterranean, in my humble opinion, so why don't give the recipe the name of this sea and of this enclave of Countries that, somehow, contributed to its genesis?
I was looking for a cold first course for one of my birthday parties (yes, I chose to make a cold dinner and, of course, the night I celebrated there were more or less 20° C… typical!) and I didn't want to make my classic rice salad, which is a bit banal …. so, starting from the beginning, ie rice, I made a replacement, and instead of "normal" rice I chose a more special, refined one, the riz rouge de Camargue, which is perfect for salads, 'cause it stays firm after cooking, and 'cause is very crisp.
Reading here and there some information about this colorful and crisp rice, I read that one of the recommended combinations was with fish, so … why don't make a sea rice salad?! And so appeared shrimps and tuna/mackerel filets. But I had to put some vegetables (I love them) … and so I put some crispy celery, sauté zucchini and, for a real Mediterranean taste, sun-dried tomatoes and black olives -with their stone (I know that olives are not strictly vegetables, but grant me this unfair allocation). And yet something was missing … herbs, maybe Occitan ones … and so I added oregano, thyme and marjoram. Add some dressing (lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, a few tablespoons of dried tomato patè), et voila, you're done! This was more or less my thought process that, from the first choice (rice) led to the creation of a brand new rice salad, very tasty and crunchy, perfect for a dinner with friends (you can serve it in single portions, putting 3 or 4 tablespoons of rice salad in a pudding mold, and then turning it upside down, as you see in the first two pictures) or for a picnic (blessed be the Tupperwares) in good company.
MEDITERRANEAN RIZ ROUGE DE CAMARGUE SALAD
Ingredients (8 servings if you eat it as a first course; 4 to 5 servings if you eat it as a single course)
* 500 g riz rouge de Camargue
* 250 g shrimps (fresh or frozen ones)
* 5 or 6 small zucchini
* 150 g in-oil tuna filets
* 150 g in-oil mackerel filets
* 1 hg sun-dried tomatoes
* 150 g black olives
* 3 celery sticks
* the juice of a lemon
* a clove of garlic
* extra-virgin olive oil
* hot pepper
I suggest you to prepare all the ingredients first, so that you have everything on hand once you have to get the rice salad together. First of all, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and then cook the rice for 18 to 20 minutes (it will remain crunchy, but it's its nature). Drain, put it under cold water (it will block the cooking process), drain again and set aside.
Wash and clean zucchini and cut them into thick washers. Put a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil in a frying pan and sauté a clove of garlic for two minutes, then add zucchini and salt; cook the zucchini, which have to stay a bit crunchy. Turn off the heat and set zucchini aside.
Bring a pot of unsalted water to a boil and cook the shrimps for 5 to 7 minutes, or until cooked. Drain, put them under cold water (it will block the cooking process) and set aside.
Rinse the sun-dried tomatoes under running water and dry them coarsely. Chop with a knife 10 to 15 tomatoes and set aside. Blend the remaining tomatoes with extra-virgin olive oil, oregano and hot pepper, until you have a paté. Set aside.
Wash and clean the celery sticks and cut them into small pieces. Set aside.
Drain the tuna and mackerel filets from their oil and break them up roughly with a fork. Set aside.
If necessary, drain the olives from the water and set aside.
Now that you have everything you need, you can make the actual rice salad: get a bowl big enough and put in it the rice, then add shrimps and zucchini (now that they cooled down), tuna and mackerel, celery, sun-dried tomatoes and olives. Now the dressing: add the juice of a lemon, a few tablespoons of tomato paté (if you like, even all of it … pay attention that the salad won't become too salty), oregano, thyme and marjoram. Season with salt, if necessary, and add extra-virgin olive oil necessary. Put the salad in a air tight container and put it in the refrigerator.
Leave the salad in the fridge a few hours (or even a whole day) before serving it, so the flavors will blend together well; when you serve it, if necessary, add a little extra-virgin olive oil more.
I find this salad different from usual, but not pretentious, tasty, fragrant and full of flavors and fragrances of the Mediterranean, which I adore. I think this salad brought to the table an irreplaceable touch of color and flavor, and I think that it would be perfect to brighten up a nice picnic, too (or, why not, a beautiful day at the seaside under a beach umbrella).