Rice bowl with swiss chard & barberries

Before I say anything about this rice bowl/salad, I want to get something out of my system.
Hi, my name is Shelly and I am addicted to TED talks.
It started after I turned forty a few months ago. I didn’t mind turning forty, not at all, but my mind did. It felt foggy and confused. It asked a lot of questions and was worried about the future, more than usual. To cope with the overwhelming thoughts and doubts, every evening I turned on the Roku, clicked on the Ted icon and watched people talk about their powerful inventions,  journeys, researches & discoveries; the universities and schools that they founded; how their art projects made a difference in the world; their education revolutions, and more.
I think I’ve watched every single talk about education and creativity. They’re my favorite. When I hear a good talk, or if I am impressed by a speaker, I applaud to the TV in envy and say things like “Well done, girl!” or “Bless you, mister!” Usually after I watch three talks (and sometimes more, depends how long they are), I feel high and extremely motivated. I think to myself, “you can change the world, too!”
But then, at night, in bed, I ask myself again, “How? How exactly are you going to change the world?” ThenI  fall asleep with a burden in my throat. When I told a friend of mine about my obsession with TED and my desire to be one of those people that make a difference, she said something very sweet and comforting. 
She said: “Your food makes a big difference. Look at me, since I met you, I eat so much healthier.” She also reminded me that I make a big difference in the lives of my children and my man. 
For now, I quit watching them. I decided that I don’t need more motivation, I need to share more good recipes like this one (I still hear them sometimes on KCRW when I’m driving somewhere.)
By the way, one of my favorites talks is by a courageous Philippino model named Geena. Her story is compelling and moving. Not telling you more, watch her talk.
I think what made a difference in my friend’s life was this rice/grain salad bowls I made for us for lunch. It is vibrant and fulfilling and packed with nutrients. You don’t need a recipe for a rice bowl. You can make a pot of rice or quinoa or any grain you like and keep it in the fridge for 2-3 days. This way you save time. Be playful, add fresh herbs, raw or cooked leafy greens, seeds, nuts, spices and etc.
The little red things that look like dried pomegranate seeds are zereshk, or Persian Barberries. Here in Teherangeles, it’s easy to find them. You can buy them online. (God bless Amazon Prime!)

Rice bowl with swiss chard, barberries and pistachio

Servings: 2
Author: Shelly


  • cups basmati rice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 4 tablespoons zereshk berries (dried barberries )
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin – optional
  • 1 bunch swiss chard or kale
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt & pepper
  • 4 tablespoons toasted pistachio (or almonds, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds)
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • ½ cup mint leaves or dill
  • 1 avocado


  • Cook the rice (see instructions below.) While the rice is cooking, soak the swiss chard in cold water for 2 – 3 minutes to remove sand or bugs. Drain and dry with a salad spinner. Chop it and set aside.
  • Drizzle the olive oil into a large skillet over medium heat. Crush the garlic straight into the skillet. Add cumin and zereshk and sauté for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Don’t let the garlic and berries to scorch, lower the heat if necessary. Add the chard into the skillet and continue to sauté for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the pistachios, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and toss. Remove from the heat.
  • Add the rice into the skillet and toss. Transfer to a bowl. Chop the herbs and slice the avocado and add to the bowl, and gently toss. Drizzle some olive, taste and correct seasoning, and serve.


How to make the perfect Basmati rice:
1 cup basmati rice
1¼ cups water
¼ teaspoon sea salt
4 cardamons pods – optional
Normally I would rinse the rice in a fine colander under cold running water but because of the drought, I soak the rice in cold water for 5 – 10 minutes, then give it a quick rinse before I add it to the boiling water.
In a medium sauce pan, bring the water and salt to a rapid boil.
Stir the rice and cardamon pods into the boiling water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover with a lid and cook for 12 minutes. Do not lift the lid while the rice is cooking, otherwise the steam will escape! Remove from the heat, but keep the lid on for an extra 5 minutes before you serve.

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