Veggie Salad Bowl with Coconut Rice and Thai Peanut Dressing

You'll be bowled over by this hearty salad, which is bursting with flavor (and nutrition).

You'll be bowled over by this hearty salad, which is bursting with flavor (and nutrition).

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

INGREDIENTS:

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

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Assemble your salad, including the kale, rice, and all of your cooked veggies.
  5. 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.