In Italy, whenever you walk into a store that sells salumi or prepared foods, you will inevitably see some kind of rice salad. It's as ubiquitous as coleslaw is in delis here, and these rice salads can be just as unimpressive—often a half-hearted mix of canned corn, sliced olives, lackluster ham, vegetables, and rice. Still, we've always liked the idea of a rice salad and so decided to come up with a fresher, livelier version, using summer vegetables at their peak—sweet corn, ripe cherry tomatoes, spice radishes, cucumbers, and scallions, with herbs and caciocavallo cheese for complexity. But the biggest departure from the Italian standard is that instead of using the traditional white rice, we toss the vegetables with red rice from the Piedmont region. Red has a much deeper, earthier flavor than white rice and a firmer texture. If you can't find it, try using faro rather than substitution white or brown rice.
Bring a large pot of unsalted water to a boil. Add the rice and boil until the grains begin to split, 15 to 18 minutes. Salt the water heavily and cook until the grains are tender, 5 to 10 minutes longer. Drain the rice very well and spread it out on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the vinegar and 2 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Let cool.
Transfer the rice to a large bowl. Toss with the tomatoes, corn, cheese, cucumber, radishes, scallions, herbs, and the remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons oil. Season with salt, pepper, and more vinegar if the salad needs a lift. Drizzle with salad with oil and serve.
Excerpted from Franny's by Andrew Feinberg and Francine Stephens (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2013
"My mother taught me that food was fuel," says writer Elissa Altman. "That food was dangerous. That food was the enemy." As Altman's mother grows older, Altman is finding it difficult to get her to eat.