Non-Traditional Insalata di Riso

by Valerie on January 19, 2011 · 5 comments

Today’s Lunchbox

Insalata di riso lunchbox 012

Today’s lunch and two (liquid) snacks include:

  • Insalata di Riso, the totally non-traditional approach (see below for recipe), atop romaine 
  • Half a recipe of Wendy’s awesome Kale Cranberry Smoothie
  • A variation of my Chocolate Milkshake Smoothie,minus the sunbutter and with an enormous collard leaf instead of the spinach
  • A small slice of Naomi’s Raspberry Tea Bread.  I am adopting Naomi for Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger this month, so I made a half batch of this tea bread, using duck eggs instead of chicken eggs and replacing certain ingredients like the butter, as part of my adoption (post forthcoming).  It is truly a lovely bread

I really think part of the reason I like smoothies is that they are motivating – those two smoothies comprised a total of a banana, an apple, a half cup of cranberries, 2 cups of kale and 1/2 cup of collards.  Add to that the romaine under the rice salad, and that’s 3 cups of greens and 3 servings of fruit before we even get to the vegetables in the rice salad.   

Recipe Corner


This recipe is my submission to No Croutons Required.  As you know from my past participation in this event, every month a different ingredient is chosen and participants must submit a vegetarian soup or salad.  While not an explicitly gluten-free event, most of the submissions are naturally gluten-free. I submitted a quinoa salad recipe in November, a noodle salad in October, and a carrot soup in August.  The main ingredient of No Croutons Required this month is rice. No Croutons Required  always has a lovely round-up of salads and soups around a specific theme and is hosted this month by Lisa of Lisa’s KitchenLisa and Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes take turns hosting the event.  

So rice – the first thing I thought of was Insalata di Riso.  My mom is from the Italian part of Switzerland, so this Italian staple showed up often, especially in summer when we would visit my aunt who lived close to the Swiss-Italian border.  Here is the thing though – I hated this dish.  The vegetables were often partially pickled before adding to the salad and, in fact,would sometimes be purchased in jars very reminiscent to what is called giardiniera here.  There was also, inexplicably, corn in the equation.  There are many ways to make insalata di riso, but the versions I remember always had hard boiled eggs and tuna, which were, along with the rice, my favorite parts of the salad, which was always too vinegary for my taste.

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So when I saw this month’s NCR challenge, I decided to reinvent insalata di riso to be more lemony and skip the tuna and chicken eggs and corn.  I wanted to skip the vinegary feel to the dish – first because I never liked it, and secondly because I have discovered that too much vinegar is too acidic for me.  Additionally, this salad is very versatile. If you would like to make a soy-free version, replace the tofu with chickpeas or other legume of your choice and skip the spicing for the tofu.

In addition to No Croutons Required  I am also submitting this recipe to Gluten-Free Wednesday at the Gluten-Free Homemaker, since the salad is gluten-free, and to Real Sustenance’s Seasonal Sunday, which is all about showcasing seasonal ingredients.  Here the carrots and rice are both considered seasonal under the rules of the event.  Finally, I am submitting the recipe to Slightly Indulgent Tuesday over at  Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free the salad tastes indulgent and delicious.

Insalata di Riso (Gluten-Free, Vegan, Nut-Free, Soy-Free Option)

Makes 4 servings

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  • 1 cup long-grain brown rice
  • 1/3 cup frozen peas
  • 1 Tbsp plus more for drizzling (optional)
  • 1 tsp grapeseed oil
  • 14oz extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed for at least an hour (I like the Tofu XPress, but even just placing the tofu between two plates and adding a heavy book or saucepan atop the second plate will do the trick.  Replace tofu and next 4 ingredients with 1 cup of chickpeas or other legume for soy-free option.
  • 1 Tbsp tamari or Braggs aminos
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/3 cup shredded carrots
  • 2/3 cup artichoke hearts (I used defrosted plain artichoke hearts but you can use those packed in water or marinated artichokes. Just be sure to adjust seasoning if you do not use plain artichoke hearts)
  • 1 green pepper, diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/3 cup parsley, chopped finely
  • 2 Tbsps finely chopped red onion
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1 Tbsp)
  • 1 tsp red wine or apple cider vinegar
  • salt/pepper/Herbamare, to taste (I used 1/8 tsp of Herbamare and some freshly ground pepper)

Cook rice according to package directions or your preferred approach (I used the rice cooker).  After cooking has finished and rice has steamed a minimum of 15 minutes, add frozen peas to the rice and steam until peas are tender but still bright green (about 5 minutes).  Place rice and peas in a large bowl and add one tablespoon extra-virgin oil.  Combine to ensure that rice will not stick.  Set aside to cool at least 15 minutes.

While rice is cooking and cooling, work on other components of the salad, including the tofu.  To cook the tofu, heat 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil in a large pan, crumble tofu in the pan and add tamari, turmeric, and curry powder. Stir until combined, about 1 minute.  Add nutritional yeast and stir again until combined, about 1 minute.  Allow tofu to cook another additional 1-2 minutes to let flavors blend and tofu dry out a bit.  Set aside to cool for a few minutes.

Combine rice and peas with artichoke hearts, shredded carrots, parsley, green pepper and red onion.  Add lemon juice and vinegar and stir to combine.  Add the tofu and stir gently to avoid tofu pieces breaking up further.  Add salt, pepper and/or Herbamare and taste and adjust seasonings to your taste.

I enjoyed the salad served adopt shredded romaine, but how you serve it is up to you.

Have a Lunchbox and Want to be a Guest Blogger at {Today’s Lunchbox}

I am looking for guest bloggers of lunchboxes on an ongoing basis, so email me at citylifeeats at gmail dot com if you are interested.  Guest lunchboxes must be gluten-free and whole-foods based but need not be dairy-free or vegan.  I know this is a time for resolutions and change for many, so would like to provide as much lunchbox inspiration as possible.  To do that, I think it is important that you see not just my own lunchboxes but other people’s as well. In my view, packing one’s lunch is a change that can have so much impact – both on your health and finances – so I would love to hear from many of you.  They can be work-day lunchboxes, school lunchboxes, travel lunchboxes or weekend lunchboxes. 

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Fitnatic January 19, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Love your version of insalata! Its a cross between indian pulao and chinese fried rice. :)

I am amazed at how you seem to have your lunch ready. I struggle with it everyday! I have a mental block when it comes to thinking up meals even though I have it easier than you because I am not restricted to vegan food – just lower carbs and gluten free. I will try your insalata version but keep the tuna. Can you share how the tuna was added to the original recipe?


2 AmyJean {Relentless Bride} January 19, 2011 at 7:04 pm

You make healthy eating look simply divine!


3 Alisa Fleming January 20, 2011 at 12:47 am

Seriously, I am impressed. That is a load of veggies (and fruit) in one meal! Not sure I could down that much liquid though, but still a lot if I just had one, no? And that salad looks AMAZING!


4 withoutadornment January 25, 2011 at 11:31 pm

Thank you for including a soy free version of this as it looks amazing! I'm definitely bookmarking this. :)


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