Normally you see wild rice used in a stuffing for game birds and typically gets combined with some sort of dried fruit. Because of this I think we tend to see wild rice more in the fall and winter but luckily for us, it’s a short step from taking the stuffing concept and transforming it into a cold summer salad.
Wild rice isn’t really a rice like you know it. It’s more of a grain which grows in shallow water around the edges of ponds, lakes, and streams. Probably why it makes it such a good pairing with waterfowl. Wild rice has a much different texture than regular white rice with a harder, chewy outer hull and tender inside. Taste-wise it’s very earthy. I think the more popular term for this is ‘umami.’
There isn’t a long list of flavor matches in The Flavor Bible. And it’s not a very exciting list either. Butter, oil, pepper and scallions are the ingredients listed in bold typeface (meaning they pair well). Midwestern American Cuisine (not in bold typeface) is also mentioned which made me chuckle. Not quite the ‘welcome to flavor country’ endorsement you’re looking for! But that’s ok, I think it just means wild rice lends itself well as a base for creativity.
On its own wild rice is rather bland, so it can use some really aggressive flavors. I thought a sweet and sharp combination would work well so I went with some Stilton cheese and dried apricots. Nuts seem to add more earthiness to wild rice but instead of walnuts (in The Flavor Bible) I used pecans. Mostly because I like pecans but also because they add a crunchy texture to the salad. A good contrast to the soft apricots and cheese. For a little more sweetness I used some raspberry vinegar to make a vinaigrette for combining everything. All in all this turned out really well. Good flavors and textures and super easy to whip up. An excellent addition to any summer table!
Wild Rice Salad with Apricots, Stilton, and Pecans
- 2 C wild rice
- 8 C water
- 1 ½ C dried apricots, small dice
- 1 ½ C pecans, chopped
- 12 oz Stilton cheese, crumbled
- 1 C raspberry vinaigrette (or whatever you like)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Put the wild rice in a pot with the water and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce to simmer and cover. Simmer for 45-50 minutes or until the grains are soft.
Remove from heat and drain off excess water. Allow rice to cool.
Combine all of the ingredients into the cooled wild rice and stir together. Mix the vinaigrette, ¼ C raspberry vinegar plus ¾ C olive oil. Drizzle vinaigrette into the salad to taste, mixing as you pour. Serve!