Things haven't been quite, well, normal when it comes to my gustatory habits lately. I've been fantasizing about all kinds of comfort food. Case in point: It was only a matter of days before I took down a family size box of Cheez-Its while packing. We don't even keep junk food in our house under normal circumstances. Suffice it to say that it hasn't been a red letter day - or month - for my diet.
But then inspiration came to me in the unlikeliest of places: Starbucks. Their Hearty Veggie Salad and Brown Rice bowl delivered on its wholesome promise during a rushed lunch hour - and then some.
If you're on the road, it's worth it to pick up the original, but below is a recipe for meal-sized portions that will feed up to four people. You can easily scale up-or-down as needed and feel free to substitute ingredients as needed. For instance, I used leftover coconut rice I had frozen from a meal earlier in the week (simply placed in a gallon-sized freezer bag and placed flat in the drawer); you could easily use frozen rice from your grocer's freezer. The recipe itself is quite flexible with the exception of the Thai peanut flavors: This salad bowl really needs it to tie everything together. Use a generous hand when dressing!
VEGGIE SALAD BOWL WITH COCONUT RICE AND THAI PEANUT DRESSING
For the Veggie Salad Bowl
- 6 cups kale (can use pre-cut)
- 1-2 cups cooked rice (can use frozen brown or white rice, or make coconut rice - recipe below)
- 2 cups broccoli florets, blanched*
- 1/2 to 1 cup peas (can use frozen), blanched*
- 2-3 cups cubed butternut squash (can use pre-cut)
- 2 small beets (can use steamed - found in the produce section)
For the Coconut Rice
- 1 cup uncooked jasmine or basmati rice
- 1 cup light coconut milk (canned)
- 3/4 cup coconut water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened, flaked coconut
For the Thai Peanut Dressing
- 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
- 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven preheats, cook rice according to package instructions. If making coconut rice, bring the coconut milk and coconut water to a low boil in a saucepan. Add the rice, salt, and unsweetened coconut flakes, stirring to combine, and cover the pot with a lid and plae on low. Cook ten minutes and remove from heat completely for 20 minutes: Resist the temptation to check on the rice before that time is up. Fluff with a fork before serving.
- Once your oven reaches temperature, toss your squash in a generous glug of olive oil, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly, spreading out into a single layer on a cookie sheet. Roast for 20-30 minutes, tossing once and pulling once you've reached a golden brown or dark brown color. Allow to cool slightly.
- While the squash roasts, blanch your broccoli and peas. While this step isn't crucial (Starbucks serves their broccoli raw), it helps create a little tenderness in the veggies.
- Assemble your salad, including the kale, rice, and all of your cooked veggies.
- Make your dressing by combining the peanut butter, rice vinegar, sugar, soy sauce and salt and pepper. You'll find it's thick and almost-paste like when first combined: This is a good thing. You've built your flavor and just need to create the right consistency. Continue whisking or stirring with a fork, adding 1 teaspoon of water at a time until you have a pourable dressing. Immediately add to your greens and veggies, and don't worry about the salad sitting out for a few minutes before serving: Kale will tenderize a bit after being dressed without becoming soggy.
*Note: To blanch produce, simply add your vegetables to boiling, salted water and allow to cook for a minute or two. When they reach your desired crisp-tenderness, "shock" them to stop the cooking process by removing them with a slotted spoon, then submerging in a bowl filled with water and ice. Drain completely.