This recipe comes from Assunta, the gamekeeper's wife at our country house. Rice salad is a standby for buffets all over Italy with many variations; a particularly refreshing one in the summertime consists of cold rice, lemon juice, green olives and black Gaeta olives, ripe tomatoes, and olive oil. If desired, basil can be added. The salad is very pretty served on large wooden platters.
For the salad:
2 lbs raw long-grain rice
1 cup pitted green olives
1 cup pitted ripe black olives, preferably Gaeta
7 oz Gruyère cheese, cut in small dice
7 oz cooked ham, sliced thickly and then diced
7 oz roasted red peppers, cut in thin strips
7 oz firm, ripe tomatoes, skinned and diced in small pieces (to be prepared at the last minute)
Chopped gherkins to taste
For the dressing:
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the garnish:
3 roasted red peppers
Cook the rice al dente according to package directions. (It is important not to overcook, or it will become mushy in the salad.)
Drain the rice and spread on tea towels to dry.
Prepare the other ingredients and add to the cold rice.
Put the oil, lemon juice, and mustard in a small bowl and mix together beating with a fork. Add salt and pepper to taste, and pour over the rice mixture.
If serving at once, the tomatoes can be included.
If prepared in advance, add the tomatoes at the last moment.
Garnish with olives and roasted peppers.
NOTE: It can be prepared the day before, with the dressing. If prepared in advance, leave out the tomatoes until just before serving.