Go ahead, treat yourself to wild rice

It’s been too long since I wrote a food post here.

“Eat well on a tight budget” articles are all the rage in this tough economy. I have a few of my own diaries in mind on that topic, but today I felt inspired to write about one of my favorite winter foods.

As you may know, wild rice is not really rice; it’s an aquatic grass that “towers over other grains when it comes to amounts of protein, minerals, B vitamins, folic acid, and carbohydrates.” Wild rice is often considered a luxury food, but if your local grocer has it in the bulk food section, the price per meal may be more reasonable than you think.

You don’t need to soak wild rice before cooking. Just rinse and add to a pot with approximately 2 parts water (or a little less) to 1 part rice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until some of the grains have split, about 25-40 minutes depending on the type of wild rice. Don’t wait until all the grains are split–you’ll overcook it. If there is any extra water in the pot, drain the rice before proceeding with your recipe.

After the jump I’ve posted recipes for my two favorite wild rice dishes.

Tomato and Olive Wild Rice Casserole

I always double this recipe, so we can eat it two nights in a row. I’ve put the double quantities in parentheses. It’s great for pot lucks or as a meal to take to a new mother or someone recovering from an injury or illness.

The original came from Susan Carol Hauser’s book Wild Rice Cooking. I highly recommend the book if you like wild rice, but some of the recipes are quite bland. Apparently herbs and spices are not prevalent in traditional Minnesota cooking. I’ve added oregano and crushed chillies to this dish, but you could experiment with other flavorings. In fact, Asinum Asinus Fricat has inspired me to try it with thyme.

Hauser’s recipe also called for a cup of sliced mushrooms. I’ve never added those because mushrooms are one of very few foods my husband dislikes.

The original recipe called for a cup of shredded cheddar cheese. I have tried this with many other kinds of cheese too, including gruyere, asiago, and halumi. It works with everything. If you’re using sharp or very flavorful cheese, you can use less than a cup.

I’ve never tried a vegan version of this dish, but probably it would be good even without cheese, especially if you added the mushrooms and used really good olives, like kalamata.

Tomato and Olive Wild Rice Casserole

1 cup uncooked wild rice (2 cups)

one medium onion, chopped (large onion)

1 15-oz can chopped tomatoes, undrained (28-oz can of chopped tomatoes or 24-oz jar of strained tomatoes, undrained)

1/2 cup to 1 cup chopped ripe black olives, preferably kalamata (1 to 2 cups)

1/2 cup to 1 cup grated cheese (quantity depends on your taste and what kind of cheese you use)

about 1 cup water

1 teaspoon dried oregano (2 tsp)

1/2 teaspoon crushed chillies (1 tsp)

wheat germ for sprinkling on top (optional)

1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)

Rinse wild rice, drain and cook in water until tender, about 25-40 minutes. Drain when cooked if there is extra water.

Meanwhile, saute onions and mushrooms, if using, in butter or oil. When soft, add tomatoes, olives and any other herbs and spices you want to use.

In ungreased casserole dish, combine all the ingredients, stirring the water in last. Sprinkle wheat germ or extra cheese on top if you like. You can make the dish ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake.

Cover and bake at 350 F for about 30 to 40 minutes. I like to take the cover off for the last 10 minutes to get it a little brown on top. If you made the dish ahead of time and had it in the refrigerator, add about 10 minutes to the baking time.

So, that’s my favorite main dish with wild rice. The idea for my favorite side dish with wild rice comes from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. When I used to make this dish frequently, I never cooked with meat at home, but it would go with almost any kind of meat, fish or fowl as well as a vegetarian meal.

Rosso and Lukins used dried currants, but I like throwing in a few kinds of dried fruits (cherries are really nice). They used toasted pine nuts, but I prefer it with raw cashews. They also added fresh chopped parsley, but I leave that out because I am lazy and rarely have fresh herbs on hand (obviously I am no chef). Finally, they call for 2 Tbsp grated orange zest and 2 Tbsp fresh orange juice. About 90 percent of the time I would just use a few tablespoons of orange juice from the carton. (Like I said, I am no chef!)

Rosso and Lukins recommend serving with sprinkled Parmesan cheese, but I never found that necessary.

Wild rice and brown rice casserole

1 cup wild rice

1 cup brown rice (I like brown basmati rice)

1 cup mixed dried fruits (or just currants)

1/2 cup raw cashews

2 Tablespoons orange juice

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook wild rice until tender (some of the grains have split). In a separate pot, cook brown rice until tender (cooking time and amount of water will depend on the kind of rice you use). Ideally, the rice will absorb all the cooking water, but if there is extra water, drain.

Transfer cooked wild rice and brown rice to a big bowl, add all the other ingredients, and toss to combine.

Put in a casserole dish, cover and bake at 350 degrees F for 20 to 30 minutes. If you like, sprinkle with cheese when serving, but I think it’s good without cheese.

  • So, like, if mr. dmd and I built a

    small diversion dam on your creek bottom there, and used controlled flood irrigation on that… Or better yet, set up a bunch of terraces on that one hill, and used a wind powered pump to get the water out of the creek up there…

    Nah, on second thought, it’s probably much cheaper just to drive up to Northern Minnesota and buy it in bulk.

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