Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cooking American Food: Wild Rice Salad

American food was the assignment. The party theme was all-American food and music. My first instinct was to pick up one of my state-themed cookbooks (Missouri, Montana, and Ohio) and pick out an all-American side dish. But when you start reading the recipes, you realize that almost all of the recipes were inspired by non-American cuisine and include many use non-native ingredients. In community cookbooks like these, the recipes included have been passed down through families and most originated in another part of the world.

I closed up the books and starting thinking about what foods are native to this part of the world and what I could put together in a summery side dish to please a big crowd. Since the party was on a weeknight the salad had to be travel friendly (an hour to work and an hour to the party with no refrigeration). And since I didn't know all of the guests I ruled out my favorite herb, cilantro and nuts in case of allergies.

After some thinking I came up with two ingredients - wild rice and cranberries. Wild rice is native to North America - it grows in the Great Lakes region. Cranberries are a product of Massachusetts, so they were an easy choice to throw in.

I perused the cookbook library and really couldn't find a good recipe for what I was looking to make. So I used my American can-do attitude and made up my own recipe!

My weekly trip to the farmers' market yielded a vibrant green bunch of flat-leaf parsley and purple scallions. A quick trip to the grocery store provided the rest of the ingredients - wild rice and celery. Thanks to some delicious free samples, provided to me by Oh!Nuts, I had a bag of dried cranberries in the pantry. The dressing for the salad was made out of ingredients from the fridge and the pantry. As a bonus - this is a very healthy dish! The only fat comes from the oil in the dressing and all the ingredients bring something nutritious to the mix.

The salad was pretty quick to make - while the rice is cooking you can finish all of the other components. It held up well during travel and was a big hit! I lightly dressed the salad the the before the party and put out extra dressing for guests if they wanted more flavor. I will be making this again soon! The wild rice is a great base for a variety ingredients - much like quinoa, barley, or kasha. Perfect for summer lunches and potlucks!

For a recap of all the American inspired dishes and songs, visit the gracious party host's blog Doves and Figs. I forgot to take a picture of the finished product - you'll have to visit Doves and Figs to see the completed salad. Great company, food, drinks, and song!

Summer Wild Rice Salad
Serves 10+ as a side dish

Rice Salad
2 8-ounce bags Quick-cooking Wild Rice (Lundberg Family Farms brand)
1.5 cups celery stalks, washed and diced
1.5 cups dried cranberries
1 cup flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
3-4 scallions, purple (or white) and green parts chopped

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Zest from 1 orange
Juice from one orange
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Cook rice according to the package instructions
Remove from the pot when finished and let cool completely
Toss veggies, herbs, and cranberries with the rice (I think using your hands mixes it best)

In a food processor, combine vinegar, honey, mustard, orange zest and juice
Blend, streaming in olive oil until well mixed and frothy

Pour about half the dressing over the rice mixture and toss well
Refrigerate overnight, or until ready to serve
Toss with additional dressing if desired
Garnish with fresh parsley leaves and enjoy!

Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
Cook Time: 30-40 minutes (rice)
Pot for rice, spoons, cutting board, knife, measuring cups, food processor, serving bowl and utensils

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