It’s the 20th anniversary of National Wild Rice Week! Are you celebrating appropriately? Did you know that wild rice is Minnesota’s official state grain? There are very long winters in Minnesota…
Since we are weaning ourselves off the convenience of grilling many a summer meal outside, it is time to return to the kitchen, and to start thinking of warm, filling meals. I could be happy with a roasted chicken breast and a side of white rice with a small green salad every night of the week, however the people I live with like a little variety. (So quickly the young have forgotten the experiment we performed in 2006, when we tried to see how many consecutive meals of pizza we could rack up…) Even the dog likes something other than the plain old boring kibble every night. And so I am going to expand our horizons with a little wild rice, which is so apropos, considering the rounds of festive National Rice Week parties we are sure to be attending.
Wild rice, which is found mostly in North America, is really am aquatic grass. It reminded early explorers of rice paddies, thus the moniker. French explorers called it folles avoines or “crazy oats”; so poetic those French. It is a good-for-you whole grain— gluten free, low in fat and calories, high in fiber, protein and complex carbs, and it is quite tasty and versatile and importantly – it is easy to prepare. You can use it in salads or soups, combined with white rice as a side dish or even a stuffing. It goes well with fall foods like pumpkin and squash, and game— pheasant, duck, duck, goose!
Wild rice is expensive because of it laborious harvesting methods, but a little does go a long way. And wild rice is a breeze to cook! Rinse a cup of raw rice thoroughly. Boil three cups of water (or stock), add the cup of rice. Bring to a boil again and then reduce heat. Cover, and simmer on low for 50 to 60 minutes; wild rice bursts open when it’s cooked, so you can easily tell when it is done. Drain any excess water. Voila! C’est folles avoines. I like low maintenance meals, ones where I can walk away for half an hour, come back and stir, and look like a completely engaged cook. Never mind that I was curled up with The Miniaturist: A Novel by Jessie Burton for those thirty minutes.
Now comes the fun part. What can you do with cooked wild rice? Forget Starbucks’s overpriced pumpkin spice lattes, make some Pumpkin Wild Rice Soup!
2 cups cooked wild rice
2 tablespoons of good butter (remember the March Hare)
1 cup chopped onion
4 cups chicken broth
16 ounces canned pumpkin (although you should check the farmers’ market for fresh!)
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1 cup heavy cream (so much for counting calories)
Melt the butter in large saucepan. Add the chopped onion and cook until lightly browned and translucent. Stir in the broth and pumpkin. Cook 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the wild rice and pepper, cook until warm and mixed through. Bon appétit!
Rice is like a newly stretched, taut, raw canvas: whatever you throw on it will determine whether you have something spicy or something bland. The folks I live with are just glad of something warm and different, that doesn’t involve organ meats or brains or kale…
And guess what? Next month we’ll have more fun, because it is National Dessert Month!
Here are some other wild rice ideas:
“There was a Young Person of Bantry,
Who frequently slept in the pantry;
When disturbed by the mice,
she appeased them with rice
That judicious Young Person of Bantry.”