Summer salad

Summer Brown Rice Salad with Vegetables.

More often than not, when I offer a recipe in this spot that deploys white rice as a main ingredient, readers respond with: Can I use brown rice instead?

The answer’s not as simple as the question. Research shows there are health benefits and more nutrients to be gained in choosing the whole grain (brown) over what is basically starch (white). But swapping them in recipes depends on taste and time: Nutty and chewy brown takes longer to cook, and white can be quite delicate, fragrant and flavor-absorbing, taking about half as long to make.

The playing field leveled a bit when parboiled brown rice, a.k.a. the instant kind, hit the U.S. market in 1990. As far as I can tell, there’s no reason to think of it as a lesser product than its original kin. It is a processed, convenience product with nutrients and nuttiness intact, pretty much. The texture’s not quite the same, but when prepping a quick meal, I’m comfortable with the trade-off.

So stock it in your pantry and put instant brown rice to work in this satisfying and healthful dinner salad, graced with a tonnato-type dressing that blends canned tuna, chickpeas, yogurt and herbs into something creamy and packed with protein and flavor. The only bit of cooking here is the rice via microwave, to keep the kitchen cool.

And for you quinoa fans, yep, you can spend a few extra minutes and cook up a pot to use for this salad, instead of the brown rice.

Summer Brown Rice Salad with Vegetables35 minutes

3 to 4 servings

Cooking the instant brown rice in the microwave keeps the kitchen cool as you put together this creamy-dressed bowl.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups Minute brand instant brown rice (uncooked)

1 1/2 cups water or no-salt-added vegetable broth, plus more water as needed

One 14.5-ounce can no-salt-added chickpeas

One 5-ounce can good-quality tuna packed in olive oil

1/4 cup plain, full-fat yogurt or low-fat yogurt

6 to 8 stems fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme and parsley

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 medium fennel bulb

1/2 orange or red bell pepper

1/2 medium red onion

6 to 8 ounces salad greens of your choice (5 packed cups)

Steps

Combine the rice and water or broth in a microwave-safe bowl or deep measuring cup; cover with paper towel and microwave on high for 9 to 10 minutes, stopping to stir once halfway through, until the liquid is absorbed. Spread the rice on a rimmed baking sheet to cool, fluffing it with a fork as needed.

Meanwhile, drain the chickpeas and measure out 1/2 cup, then pour that into the jar of your blender. Add the tuna and about 2 tablespoons of its oil and all the yogurt; strip the herbs from their stems and drop them in as you work. Puree to form a smooth dressing, adding water as needed to make it pourable. Taste, and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Let it sit in the blender while you prep the vegetables. The yield is about 1 1/2 cups.

Rinse all your vegetables, and pat dry with paper towels. Cut away the core from the fennel bulb and the bulb’s tough exterior layer; reserve those to make broth, if desired. Cut the remaining bulb into 1/4- or 1/2-inch dice. Coarsely chop the bell pepper. Cut the red onion into thin slices.

Toss together the cooled rice, the remaining drained chickpeas, the fennel, bell pepper, red onion and salad greens in a mixing bowl. Add half the dressing and toss to coat evenly. Taste, and add more salt and/or pepper, as needed.

Divide among individual plates, and serve with more dressing at the table.

Nutrition (based on using full-fat yogurt and half the dressing) | Calories: 440; Total Fat: 8 g; Saturated Fat: 1 g; Cholesterol: 5 mg; Sodium: 190 mg; Dietary Fiber: 8 g; Sugars: 3 g; Protein: 17 g.