This wild rice salad is bejeweled with cranberries, apricots and pecans and dressed with orange shallot vinaigrette. It’s The perfect side dish for Thanksgiving or any festive meal.
There are a lot of good reasons to cook wild rice right now. It’s one of those ingredients that we don’t hear a lot of hype about, probably because it’s not produced or consumed in large quantities. Wild rice is a nutritious whole grain. It’s got protein and fiber and lots of vitamins and minerals including folate, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, Vitamin B6, and niacin. It has an interesting texture and a unique toasty earthy flavor that has great synergy with bright citrusy ingredients like dried cranberries, apricots and orange. I pretty much ignore wild rice most of the year but it always finds its way into my grocery cart and onto my table in the fall. And because it makes such rare appearances, it always feels special.
I developed this recipe with the holidays in mind. It’s delicious and festive, much of it can be prepared ahead, and it’s best served at room temperature. It’s also a great choice if you need a gluten-free holiday side dish. The salad is an equal mix of white and wild rice, bejeweled with dried fruits, toasted pecans and a generous amount of caramelized onions, all tossed in a citrus shallot vinaigrette.
I tried a new technique to caramelize the onions for this salad. Actually it’s an old technique that my grandmother used that I recently learned about from my Aunt. My Grandmother Fay owned a kosher hotel in the Catskill mountains called Sunny Oaks. The Sunny Oaks kitchen had several large deep industrial ovens which were always roaring away, roasting chickens or briskets, baking kugels or stuffed cabbage rolls. What I learned from my aunt is that my grandmother was perpetually caramelizing onions in those ovens. She always had big trays of sliced onions and oil tucked into the back of the ovens, behind the chickens and kugels, so she could enjoy a steady supply of sweet caramelized onions to make chopped liver or whatever else she needed them for. She also loved to cook with the delicious onion-flavored oil that resulted.
I didn’t include this technique in the recipe but if you’d like to try it: slice two onions. Put them in a baking pan with 1 cup of olive oil. Cook at 350ºF for 2 1/2 hours, stirring every half hour. Store the onion-flavored oil in a covered jar in the fridge and use it to cook eggs or to make a stir-fry or anything else that would benefit from the caramelized onion flavor.
I’m not sure if I’ll be posting another recipe until after Thanksgiving. Two of my sons are flying home for the holiday. I’m hosting this year and so far the only thing I’ve done to prepare is order the turkey. So if we don’t connect before next Thursday I wish you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!
In the meantime, here are a few recipes you might want to save for your leftovers:
Here’s the recipe for Wild Rice Salad with Cranberries, Apricots and Pecans. If you make it, I would love to hear what you think!
- For the Rice:
- 1 cup (1/2 pound) raw wild rice, rinsed
- 1 cup (1/2 pound) raw long grain white rice such as basmati, rinsed
- For the Caramelized Onions:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 yellow onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced (1/8-inch)
- For the Salad:
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1 cup orange juice (to soak the cranberries)
- 1½ cups pecan halves, toasted (Toss frequently in a dry pan over medium heat for a few minutes until they darken and become fragrant. Watch carefully so they don't burn)
- ¾ cup dried apricots, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup chopped parsley leaves
- For The Vinaigrette:
- ½ cup good quality olive oil
- 1 orange, zested and juiced (1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice, 1 teaspoon orange zest)
- 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (or substitute sherry vinegar)
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons honey
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- Cook the Rice: Cook the wild rice per package instructions (or boil 2¼ cups water in a medium pot. Add wild rice. Lower to a simmer. Cover and cook for 45 minutes or until rice is tender and starting to pop open) Set aside, uncovered, to cool.
- Cook white rice per package instructions, adding ½ teaspoon of salt to the cooking water. Spread rice over the bottom of a large bowl to cool.
- Caramelize the Onions: Heat butter and oil in a large skillet over medium low heat. Simmer onions, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes or until they're soft and caramelized. Pour in a tablespoon or two of water and stir with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan. Set aside to cool.
- Infuse the Cranberries with Orange Juice: Bring 1 cup orange juice to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat. Stir in dried cranberries in and let them soak for 30 minutes. Drain and aside. You won't need the remaining orange juice for this recipe.
- Make the Vinaigrette: In a small bowl whisk ¼ cup fresh orange juice, 1 teaspoon orange zest, vinegar, shallots, mustard and honey. Slowly add olive oil while whisking, to emulsify. Season with salt and pepper.
- Assemble the Salad: Combine salad ingredients with white rice: wild rice, caramelized onions, cranberries, pecans, apricots and parsley. You can make the salad ahead to this point. Cover bowl and store in the fridge overnight. Store vinaigrette in the fridge overnight. Toss salad with dressing an hour or two before serving. Serve at room temperature.