He’s 77 this year and the iconic face of America’s best-selling brand of rice from 1950 through the 1990s.
Ever since I was a little girl, Uncle Ben was a regular at our dinner table. It was the brand of rice my mom trusted. Therefore, it’s a brand I still trust today.
Uncle Ben’s Converted Rice was actually revolutionary when it was introduced in the 1930s. It was the first rice to be parboiled which offered several benefits.
Parboiling retained more or the nutrients in the rice, it cut down on cook time and it was resistant to weevils, a common problem when storing rice.
So, I was thrilled to have stumbled upon the Uncle Ben’s 50th Anniversary Cookbook in a thrift store this week, and what a bargain – half off 50 cents.
The cookbook celebrates Uncle Ben’s recipes from 1943 until 1993 and features dishes like Sweet Pepper Risotto and Pacific Paella. But the recipe that caught my eye was the Spinach, Bacon and Mozzarella Salad with Warm Rice Vinaigrette Dressing. I love the idea of soaking the cooked rice in a sweet and sour combination of vinegar, oil and brown sugar eliminating the need for additional dressing for the salad.
It can be made with either the Uncle Ben’s Original or Uncle Ben’s Instant Rice. I prefer the original. The rice mixture is delicious served warm over the spinach or cooled down.
I added a pint of grape tomatoes to the recipe since they go so well with the mozzarella. This is a great salad for the start of a new year, and if you’ve never had rice in a green salad, it’s the one to try.
By the way, here’s a bit of trivia about Uncle Ben. From 1971 to 1983, his face was removed from all packages. But in 2007, Uncle Ben’s image was back on the box and he was promoted to the chairman of the board by a new advertising campaign. Way to go, Uncle Ben!
½ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
2 ½ cups cooked Uncle Ben’s Rice
(3/4 cup uncooked)
1 bunch (or package) fresh spinach, washed, dried and torn into pieces
1 container mini Mozzarella balls cut in half or 5 ounces fresh Mozzarella, cubed
1 pint grape or small cherry tomatoes, cut in half
6 slices bacon, cooked and cut into 1 inch bite-sized pieces
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Cook rice according to package instructions and set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, vegetable oil and brown sugar, whisking often.
Heat mixture until well-blended. Do not boil. Add cooked rice and gently stir to combine.
In a large bowl, add spinach, mozzarella, tomatoes, bacon, salt and pepper.
Gently toss rice into salad mixture. Serves 6-8.