Sometimes I feel like I’m going to be the last person on the planet still eating white flour. I adore baguettes and good sourdough loaves, De Cecco spaghetti and Mission flour tortillas. While the world explodes in gluten-free-ness and low-carb attitudes, I’ll just keep chomping on the white old-fashioned stuff.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t love the whole varied rainbow of grains. Kamut finds a place in my quickbreads; oats and puffed brown rice in my granola. I eat quinoa at least once a week, and I love a good rice bowl topped with veggies and peanut sauce. There’s cornmeal in polenta and grits. There’s buckwheat soba.
In fact perhaps the final grain frontier on this blog is wild rice. I’ve made it once or twice, I suppose, but never in a way that was worth writing up. And of course it’s not really a grain but a grass, so go figure.
A long time ago I read about rice salad in an issue of Cook’s Illustrated. Their slant was that if you’re making rice for rice salad, you should cook the rice in lots of water, as if you were cooking pasta, rather than steaming it in a little stockpot as usual. The method gives each grain a certain resilience, so it doesn’t stick to the others and has an easier time absorbing dressing and mingling with other ingredients–like these white mushrooms, which I fry quickly over high heat to create something crispy rather than melty.
And so I’ve followed that method here, adding sweet-sour dried cherries, toasted almonds, crispy mushrooms, and a dressing touched with honey. I like this as a side for simply cooked proteins, or as lunch.
From my kitchen, albeit small, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Wild Rice with Crispy Mushrooms, Cherries, and Toasted Almonds
Serves 4 as a side dish
1 1/2 cups wild rice
About 1/2 cup olive oil
10 ounces white mushrooms, wiped cleaned, trimmed, and cut in 1/4-inch slices
1 clove garlic, minced with 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
In a large, heavy pot bring at least 8 cups of water to boiling. Salt it well. Add the wild rice and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 40 minutes. Drain the wild rice in a sieve. Spread the drained rice on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper so it can dry out and come to room temperature. Leave on the sheet for about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the mushrooms: heat a heavy frying pan (cast iron works great) for about 3 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, then add the sliced mushrooms in a single layer. You might have to do this in more than one batch. Sprinkle with salt. Cook for 2 minutes, then flip the mushrooms (as best you can – I don’t expect you’ll flip every one on its own). Cook another two minutes, then scrape out into a bowl. Add another tablespoon oil and repeat with remaining mushrooms if not all the slices fit the first time.
To make the dressing, combine the minced garlic with the honey, vinegar, and mustard. Whisk to combine. Slowly drizzle in 1/4 cup olive oil while whisking until the dressing is emulsified. Taste for salt.
In a serving bowl, combine the wild rice, the mushrooms, the cherries and all but a few of the almonds. Add about half the dressing. Toss well, and taste to see if you’d like more dressing.
Garnish with the remaining almonds. Serve cold or room temperature.