Festive fall side dish that’s so pretty on a plate.
One of the things I treasure most about our post-reunion life is having gotten to share quite a few Thanksgivings with this new addition to my family tree. Any chance we get to share a kitchen on the ultimate food lover’s holiday is a major blessing. Two years ago, we all journeyed to Washington DC to celebrate with Donna’s eldest daughter Kate and her husband Neil. It was my first time visiting the capitol for anything more than a rally/protest-related day trip, and we had a truly grand time sightseeing any time we weren’t rocking out in the kitchen.
Top billing in our tourist activities goes to the National Museum of the American Indian, thanks to the greatest museum cafe ever. I know, it might sound a little odd, but the Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe is a truly unique and powerfully delicious experience. Set up like a food court, each counter represents a different region of the Americas, including the Northern Woodlands, South America, the Northwest Coast, Meso America and the Great Plains. Their commitment to authenticity and diversity is stunning -though the museum itself was great experience, we went back several more times just for the food. If you have never had the pleasure, you absolutely MUST include it in your itinerary if you’re ever in DC.
Having Kate (one of my four fabulous half-siblings) in my life is yet another major boon, and chief among our common interests is – surprise – food! She and her husband have even started an ongoing culinary adventure called the Passionate International Gastronomers (PIG) Project, whereby they set out to sample the world from A to Z. One can never have too many kindred spirits in life, especially when they are literally also kin. So I was equal parts touched and stoked to receive the gift of the Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook from Kate, and it’s quickly turning into one of my all-time faves.
As I work on cooking my way through it, I came across a wild rice salad. After making it several times with a few variations (all tasty, actually) just to eat it, I started thinking about presentation, and thought it would look great as a little nest. What better to pair it with than winter squash?
WARM WILD RICE SALAD with ROASTED SQUASH EGGS
1 cup wild rice, rinsed well
3 cups vegetable stock (or chicken if preferred)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3 scallions, chopped (white and green parts)
1/4 cup pomegranate arils
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skins removed, then chopped
Apple Cider Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons honey
6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon brown mustard
1 shallot, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Roasted Squash Eggs
1/2 medium winter squash (I used kabocha here)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh black pepper as desired
Rice Salad: Combine the wild rice and stock of your choice in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover; cook for 45 to 50 minutes, until rice is cooked through and tender. There may be a bit of liquid left; it does not need to absorb it all as long as it’s thoroughly cooked – just strain the excess through a sieve or colander.
Set rice aside in a mixing bowl to cool a bit while you make the vinaigrette. Once that’s done, add cranberries, scallions, pomegranate seeds and hazelnuts to the rice in the mixing bowl and toss. Stir in 1/3 cup of the vinaigrette, reserving the rest for future salad use (it’s tasty on anything).
Vinaigrette: combine all ingredients in a jar, put lid on tightly, and shake until well-combined.
Squash: Preheat oven to 350. Scoop out seeds, rub squash flesh just a touch of olive oil and place face down in a baking dish. Bake for about 4o to 45 minutes. While baking, whisk together olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Once squash is cooked through and tender, scoop into balls with a melon baller and toss in the seasoned olive oil.
Arrange wild rice salad on small individual plates into “nest” shapes and place 2 to 3 “eggs” in the center of each nest.
Note on timing (aren’t many holiday meals all about timing?): I would put the squash in the oven just after the rice is brought down to a simmer and ready to simmer for 50 minutes.
Note on nutrition: Naturally a gluten-free food, wild rice is something of a grey area in the grains department. Some claim it’s technically a grass and not a grain, and therefore might be easier on the system for those who generally avoid grains; other say if you need to be strict about grains and/or starches in general, it’s best to avoid, but if you’re good with some or all grains, you definitely should give this one a try.
Other Wild, Wild Rice creations:
Wild Rice Burgers from The Kitchn
Roasted Pumpkin, Wild Rice and White Bean Salad from Eats Well With Others
Wild Rice Dressing from Simply Recipes
Wild Rice with Sausage and Mushrooms from Kalyn’s Kitchen
Creamy Wild Rice and Turkey Soup from Taste and Tell
Creamy Chipotle Shrimp with Mushrooms and Wild Rice from Homesick Texan
— posted by Anne