Do you ever look around in the cupboard, find something, and say to yourself, “What should we make with this?” Well, that’s the way it is with today’s post. We looked in the cupboard, found several pounds of wild rice, and thought about what we could make. Sure, we could have made something like wild rice pilaf, but we’d remembered having wild rice salads in the past. Once was at the Angry Trout Cafe in Grand Marias, MN, which happens to be a great restaurant that we heartily recommend it if you’re ever traveling the North Shore. The other was at the National Museum of the American Indian. The salads were different from one another, but they were both good.
We didn’t really want to copy a salad that already exists; instead, we decided to go off the rails and build our own from scratch, using items that we already had in-house, and possibly borrowing a bit here and there from other dishes that we were having that week. Looking at what we planned and had available, we came up with the idea of a Wild Rice and Roasted Corn Salad with Cranberries and Pecans, with a dressing of orange and raspberry vinaigrette. The corn would come from what we were roasting for a batch of risotto; we had the dried cranberries from when we made a Cranberry Apricot Bread the previous week; and pecans, well, we always have those on hand for our weekly batch of Granola. So, let’s get scratchin’ and try out this idea.
Update: We had made a lot of this so we could try it in different ways. So far, we liked it best hot and without the dressing, but with the cranberries and pecans, of course. It makes for a nice side of wild rice, and served like that we’d give it 4 stars. So consider that an option, too.
The only reason we pan-roasted the corn was that we were making some anyway for a batch of risotto. You can roast the corn if you want, or steam it, instead. We also used fresh corn; it’s in season now, and frozen just doesn’t taste as good. Dried cranberries work well in this salad, but we think that about 1/3 cup of chopped fresh cranberries would add a nice tartness. Just make sure to chop fresh cranberries finely. They’re too tart if you get a big piece. We think that pecans are the best choice to go along with wild rice, but, if you don’t agree, choose another nut. Oh, and, of course, you know that wild rice isn’t actually rice, right? Check Wikipedia for details.
Procedure in detail:
Cook wild rice. Yes, it does take a long time to cook wild rice. And, even then, it doesn’t seem completely done. But, we’re here to help you make fluffy wild rice. Yes, it will take a long time, but it will be cooked all the way through. Bring about 3 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a boil. Add the rice, reduce heat, cover, and simmer 45 to 60 minutes. The rice should be mostly done, but not all done. At least not yet. If the water is gone, add about 1/2 cup and bring back to a simmer. Then turn off the heat and let the rice sit right there, covered, until cool, perhaps another hour. Lift the lid, and look: perfect wild rice!
Pan roast corn. If you’re going to pan-roast the corn, break out a cast iron skillet and place it over medium-high heat. While heating, toss the kernels with a tablespoon of olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. After 5 to 10 minutes, the pan should be hot enough. Quickly smear the pan with a bit of olive oil. Just pour in a bit, and, using a paper towel, carefully wipe it around to coat. Add corn and let it sear without stirring for about 3 minutes. Stir and sear another 3 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl.
Refrigerate. Stir the rice in with the corn, cover, and refrigerate until cold, at least an hour, or overnight.
Stir in cranberries and pecans. Remove the salad from the refrigerator and stir in the pecans and cranberries. We sprinkled them on top to make it look nice; you can, too, if you want.
Make vinaigrette. In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.
Pour over salad. Once whisked, either drizzle over the salad, or, if this salad is more like a self-serve salad, stir in the vinaigrette.
We found this salad a lacking a bit. Sure, we made it, and it was pretty good, but it wasn’t quite flavorful enough. We think that it needed more of an orange flavor to stand up to the rice. Next time, we’ll cook down a cup of orange juice to about 4 tablespoons worth and add orange zest (we didn’t have any oranges on hand), which should really boost up the orange flavor. Also, we served this very cold, basically right out of the refrigerator, and it probably would have been better if it were closer to room temperature. Not super warm, but with only a slight chill. Because of these deficiencies that need correcting, three stars.