Mid-winter, the perverse cook in me always has a hankering for a grilled burger and potato salad. Mid-summer, I crave chili. Given the weather in Colorado, I often am able to fulfill my deepest wishes right down to the sun or cold wind to go along with the meal. It isn’t a real oddity to see 65 degrees in January or 45 in July. It happens. Somehow out-of-season dishes occasionally rear their pesky heads.
The other day wasn’t so terribly warm, but it wasn’t cold either. In fact, I was making tomato soup and just wanted something real to go with it. A couple leeks languished in the fridge next to some waning baby zucchini; a big paper box of mushrooms nearly cried foul from the crisper.
What was a girl to do?
A quick bang of the cupboards–a favorite occupation– showed up a few packages of Minnesota wild rice* and, while wild rice has a truly indefinite shelf life (no joke), it sounded fine, just fine. While I wasn’t quite sure how the meal would come together, I trusted in the spirit of the rice* and began to cook. I was sure that by the time it was done — it takes nearly an hour–I would have figured out dinner. I was right. Try this luscious bowlful, which just happens to be both vegetarian and gluten-free, and is also simply altered for a vegan version. (See bold green notes for vegan version.)
This salad lends itself to innovation. Channel your inner creative cook and use what you have on hand or would like to add for vegetables. A combination of textures and colors is helpful and charming–use both cooked and fresh vegetables as possible. For carnivores, some chopped chicken, sliced sausages, roast pork, or cooked salmon are possible inclusions. The dish holds up well in the fridge and is an excellent transporter for lunches, picnics, or just to feed you or someone you care about for a few days. Read through before beginning.
- 12 ounces wild rice (about 1 2/3 cups uncooked) You’ll have some leftover to use for soup, or simply make less. My packages come in a 12 ounce bag and I use it all.
- 1/3 cup olive oil–a bit more or less as needed**
- 2 leeks, white parts and light green parts only, thinly sliced (Split and wash very well).
- 3 small zucchini, sliced
- 16 ounces sliced button mushrooms
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- Crushed red pepper, optional
- Juice of 2 oranges
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 tablespoon good-quality white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey (For vegan version, sub Agave or maple syrup)
- 4 minced scallions, green and white parts
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 1 sweet red bell pepper, finely chopped (or a mix of red and yellow or orange peppers)
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries or cherries
- 1/3 cup toasted sliced almonds
- 4 ounces best-quality white Cheddar cheese, small dice (For vegan version, skip or use vegan cheese)
- Follow package directions and cook rice–typically 4 cups of water for each cup of rice brought to boil, lowered to a simmer, covered and cooked 50-60 minutes until tender. (Drain excess water if necessary.) Remove a cup and a half of the rice for another use, cool and refrigerate or freeze. Place remaining warm rice in a very large bowl and drizzle it with a little olive oil; season it well with salt, pepper, and a good pinch of crushed red pepper.
- While rice cooks, sauté leeks, zucchini, and mushrooms seasoned with salt and pepper in a deep skillet over medium heat until very tender. Turn off and reserve until rice is done.
- Mix the cooked leeks, zucchini, and mushrooms into the warm, seasoned rice.
- Stir in the juices, white wine vinegar, honey, scallions, celery, bell pepper, dried cranberries or cherries, and almonds, keeping out a few almonds for garnish. Drizzle with another 1/4 cup of olive oil or as needed to moisten the salad well. Stir thoroughly.
- Taste and adjust seasonings, including vinegar or citrus juice(s). Gently stir in the cheese, if using. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold garnished with reserved almonds. (Store well-covered in the fridge for 3 days; do not freeze.)
**You could choose to use butter or vegan butter (Earth Balance) to cook the leeks, zucchini, and mushrooms
*Do use native, hand-harvested wild rice. Easy to order online or even on amazon. Read more here. It makes a difference to many good people and to the waterways and the economy of the northern mid-west.
*Several Native American cultures, such as the Ojibwa, consider wild rice to be a sacred component in their culture. Tribes that are recorded as historically harvesting Zizania aquatica are the Dakota, Menominee, Meskwaki, Ojibwa, Omaha, Ponca, Thompson, and Winnebago. Native people who utilized Zizania palustris are the Chippewa, Ojibwa, and Potawtomi. Ways of preparing it varied from stewing the grains with deer broth and or maple syrup, made into stuffings for wild birds, or even steaming it into sweets like puffed rice, or rice pudding sweetened with maple syrup. The rice is harvested with a canoe: one person vans (or “knocks”) rice into the canoe with two small poles (“knockers” or “flails”) while the other paddles slowly or uses a push pole. For these groups, this harvest is an important cultural (and often economic) event. The Menominee tribe were named Omanoominii by the neighboring Ojibwa after this plant. Many places in Illinois, Indiana, Manitoba, Michigan, Minnesota, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Wisconsin are named after this plant, including Mahnomen, Minnesota, Menomonie, Wisconsin; many lakes and streams bear the name “Rice”, “Wildrice”, “Wild Rice”, or “Zizania”. (Wikipedia)
PRINTABLE RECIPE HERE: WARM WILD RICE SALAD
Sing a new song,