When my husband, Alan, and I were first dating, long before we were vegetarians, we used to love a restaurant in Palm Desert called Kacoon. It had an eclectic menu, kind of before its time, using fresh, local ingredients. My favorite dish was called the Risi Salad, which was huge, made with brown rice, fresh vegetables, chicken, and a wonderful, creamy dressing.
They also served the salad with something called ‘Seitan’ instead of the chicken, which at that time I had never heard of. Back then, even though I ate meat, I tried (I thought) to eat healthfully. When I learned that seitan was a vegetarian meat substitute made from wheat, I was excited to try it. I was happy that I did, and after that I always ordered my Risi Salad with seitan. The dressing was available for purchase separately, and I was told that it was a creamy tarragon dressing.
Then, unfortunately, as seemed to happen to many of our favorite restaurants over the years (locals-do you remember Pita House, Mrs. Bones, and now, sadly, the Palm Desert Native Foods?), it closed. No more Risi Salad.
Until now. The other day, I made a tarragon vinaigrette for a salad that I’m planning to write about sometime during Vegan MoFo (edit: find it here). The dressing was really good, and it got me to remembering and wondering if I could tweak it a little and duplicate my long lost salad. And you know what? It’s pretty damn close. Of course, maybe the years have faded my memory, but in any case, it is delicious. And here is the recipe.
Rice Salad with Creamy Tarragon Dressing
Creamy Tarragon Dressing
1/4 cup EVOO
1/8 cup Tarragon Vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
2 Tbs Lime Juice
3 tsp dried Tarragon leaves
1/4 cup Parsley
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs Vegenaise
2 cloves Garlic
1/2 tsp Salt
Pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend until creamy (it will be a beautiful green color).
2 cups cooked rice (I used a medley that included basmati, wild, brown, and red.)
1 large Tomato, chopped salad-style
3/4 cup Mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup Green Onions
1/2 cup Corn
1/4 cup chopped Parsley
Creamy Tarragon Dressing
Combine Seitan, poultry seasoning, broth, lime juice, and pepper and set aside while you chop vegetables.
Preheat a non-stick pan. Add Seitan mixture and cook until the liquid has evaporated and the seitan begins to brown slightly. Set aside to cool off.
If the rice is hot, allow it to cool off for a few minutes. Combine the rice, Seitan, and vegetables. Add the Tarragon Dressing slowly until the rice is lightly coated. You may not need all the dressing. Toss carefully. The salad can be eaten either warm or cold. Makes enough for two meal-sized servings.
I prefer it warm, maybe because I couldn’t wait until it got cold. I closed my eyes and imagined it was 1996. This salad is definitely going into the regular rotation.