One of my very favorite summer salad recipes, hearty with wild rice, crunchy with vegetables. No mayonnaise or eggs, so especially good for picnics and outdoor parties.
According to Objibway Indian legend, 21st century cooks can thank a hungry hunter and a dispatched duck for the nutty delicacy we call wild rice.
One late-summer evening, a hunter returned to camp hungry but without game. Perched on the rim of a pot above his cold fire was a duck. Startled, the bird flew into the darkness. When the hunter peered into the pot, he found coarse grains the duck had left behind. He cooked it in water – and happily filled his hungry belly with delicious soup.
The next day, the hunter set out in the direction the duck had flown and soon came upon a marsh filled with wildfowl feasting upon the wild grain. The hunter knew he and his people would never go hungry again.
For contemporary eaters, wild rice is higher in protein and fiber and a fifth lower in calories than both white and brown rice.
Cooked, it has a nutty, almost buttery flavor enhanced here in a cold side salad by softly sautéed vegetables.
WILD RICE SALAD
Total time: 60 minutes
Makes 8 cups
- 1 cup wild rice (about 6 ounces)
- 4 cups broth
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 6 ribs celery, chopped
- 16 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced or quartered
- 1 cup frozen peas, cooked (optional)
- 1 red pepper, chopped (optional)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
Rinse rice in cold water, then place in a Dutch oven. Stir in broth and ½ teaspoon salt (promotes fluffiness). Bring to a boil, uncovered. Reduce heat to medium, cover and boil softly 45 to 60 minutes or until rice is light and fluffy. Drain if necessary and return rice to Dutch oven.
Meanwhile, heat a large, deep skillet on medium high and add butter. Sauté onion, celery and mushrooms until soft. Transfer vegetable mixture to the Dutch oven with a slotted spoon, leaving vegetable liquid in pan. Add peas and red pepper to the rice mixture and combine. Add garlic to cooking liquid and cook until soft, about 1 minute. Pour garlic and remaining liquid over rice and stir together. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Wild rice isn't actually rice! It's a member of the grass family.
In my home state of Minnesota, native Americans still harvest wild rice by hand from the state's many lakes and rivers.
Most of us, however, only have access to cultivated wild rice. It is darker in color and takes longer to cook. Even after about 40 minutes, the 'spears' of cultivated wild rice can be quite chewy. This is why many wild rice recipes pair wild rice with white or brown rice that is softer after cooking.
Natural wild rice is lighter and more varied in color. It also cooks much more quickly and because it's softer, it needn't be mixed with other rices.
In Minnesota, every grocery store carries cultivated wild rice for about $5 a pound but even there it's more difficult to find natural wild rice, which sells for $7 or $8 a pound. Both are a treat but whenever I get the chance, I choose natural wild rice.
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