Wild rice salad

wild rice salad


This recipe is adapted from Mitsitam Cafe, located within the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. I had the good fortune of eating there this past March, and was taken with the delicious food and stations “in the round” presentation of indigenous cuisines of the Americas.

Mitsitam” means “Let’s Eat!” in the Native language of the Delaware and Piscataway People. Since opening in 2004, the café has become a destination in its own right, and the Mitsitam Café Cookbook has won “Best in the World” Cookbook for the “Best Local Cuisine” category of 2010 from Gourmand at the Paris Cookbook Fair.

Traditional harvesting (from Mitsitam café cookbook)
Wild rice, also called Canada rice, Indian rice and water oats, is eaten in North America and China. Wild rice flourishes in hundreds of shallow lakes and waterways surrounding the North American Great Lakes. The traditional Ojibwe method of harvesting wild was to pole a canoe through the rice field and gently knock the kernels off the tops of the grassy plant into the bottom of the boat. Back at the rice camp, the kernels would be parched in a kettle to dry completely.

Then, men & boys wearing clean moccasins would dance on the rice to loosen/remove the outer hulls. Finally, women would winnow the kernels by tossing them in a large birch bark basket, using the wind to loosen the last fragments of hull. [I love that all this was a community effort.]Today, Ojibwe families on the White Earth Reservations (Northwestern Minnesota) still harvest wild rice in canoes, but they process the kernels in mechanized mills.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 ½ cups wild rice
3 ½ cups stock, vegetable or chicken

1-2 carrots, cut into half-inch-long matchsticks, or diced in thin rounds
¼ – 1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
3 tablespoons dried cranberries
4 scallions, finely chopped
1 -2 bunches watercress, arugula, or bitter greens of choice

for vinaigrette:
1 ½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 TBS organic canola oil, sunflower oil, or virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the chicken stock and wild rice in a pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, for about 5o minutes, until the grains are just opened up and chewy/tender. (Wild rice will not absorb all the liquid it is cooking in, so don’t be alarmed or fooled into cooking it longer. When most of the grains have gently split open, it is done. Wild rice is both chewy on the outside and soft on the inside.) Spread the hot rice on a baking sheet and let cool.
While rice cooks, spread pumpkin seeds in a small baking pan and toast them in the oven for about 6 -10 minutes, until they are golden brown (keep your eye on them!). Let cool. Alternatively, you can toast them in a non oiled cast iron skillet on the stovetop.

When the rice is cool, scrape it into a large bowl and add carrots, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds and scallions.

Toss all of the ingredients together with the vinaigrette, refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Add watercress just before serving.
NOTE: While there is nothing indigenous about the pomegranate to the Americas, when available, I’ve discovered this salad tastes fabulous with pomegranate seeds in the fall. You can also add ¼ pine nuts to this salad!

In a measuring cup, whisk together cider vinegar, oil, and warmed honey (microwave for 6 seconds so it becomes thinner).

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