Experience Life Magazine

Wild Rice

This delicious grain brings warmth – and protein – to your table.

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Wild rice is known as the “caviar of grains,” but you don’t need a caviar budget to enjoy it. Once a staple in the diet of the Ojibwa and considered sacred by other Native American cultures, wild rice is widely available and can be enjoyed at any meal.

Food Basics

Wild rice isn’t actually rice at all. It’s a nutty, chewy long-grain marsh grass that can vary in color from light green to dark brown. Most commercially grown wild rice is cultivated in artificially flooded paddies in California, Minnesota and Idaho, and is often collected by airboat. It is generally darker in color than handpicked varieties, and most of it has been scarified, meaning it absorbs water and cooks quickly because the surface of the bran layer has been scratched (scarification does not affect the nutritional profile). About 20 percent of the wild rice on the market is still harvested by hand — bending the ripe seed heads and gently threshing them into canoes — in the Great Lakes region of North America, primarily Minnesota. To best savor the subtle flavor and aroma of hand-harvested wild rice, look for the label “Hand harvested, organic, and from the Great Lakes region.”

Nutritional Know-How

Naturally gluten-free, wild rice provides twice the amount of protein as brown rice and higher levels of B vitamins and potassium. It is an excellent source of fiber, vitamin E, phosphorus and the essential amino acid lysine, which plays an important role in calcium absorption, muscle building and in helping the body recover from injuries. Lysine also produces hormones, enzymes and antibodies. This carbohydrate is low-cal: One cup of cooked wild rice contains only about 130 calories.

Eat Up!

To cook wild rice, use a ratio of one part rice to three parts liquid, like hot chicken stock, vegetable stock or water. To add flavor, soften 2 tablespoons of minced shallots in olive oil over medium heat. Stir in 1 cup of wild rice, 3 cups of hot liquid and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer, cover, and steam for 45 minutes to one hour or until puffed and most of the liquid is absorbed. Fluff rice with a fork and continue to cook uncovered to evaporate any excess liquid.

  • The soft, chewy texture and nutty flavor of wild rice is an ideal base for countless salads. Its flavors partner well with celery, cucumbers, bell peppers, scallions, nuts, dried fruits, tomatoes (fresh, dried or roasted), infused vinegars, sour cream and yogurt.
  • Substitute wild rice for white rice in favorite soup recipes to add a hearty flavor.

Kitchen Tricks

  • Wild rice can be safely stored in the pantry, but because of its high moisture content, it can be stored in the fridge indefinitely.
  • Wild rice should be rinsed before cooking to remove any unwanted hulls.
  • Because of the relatively long preparation time for wild rice, make a large batch — enough for future uses — at one time. To store the extra cooked rice, cool it quickly by spreading on a baking sheet before refrigerating. Next, place the cooled rice in a freezer bag, remove excess air, wrap tightly and freeze for up to two weeks.

For details on how to prepare Wild Rice Sesame Orange Salad; Wild Rice, Grapes and Feta Salad; Wild Rice and Pearl Barley Stuffing; and Wild Rice and Potato Griddle Cakes, see the Web Extras!

Chef Cary Neff is the president of the consulting firm Culinary Innovations and the author of the New York Times bestseller Conscious Cuisine (Sourcebooks, 2002).

Web Extra

Wild Rice Sesame Orange Salad

Serves eight For the salad

  • 4 cups cooked wild rice, cooled
  • 1/2 cup peeled, seeded and finely diced English cucumbers
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1 cup mandarin orange segments
  • 1 cup red teardrop tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

For the dressing

  • 2 tbs. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper

In a medium bowl, combine the salad ingredients. Whisk together the dressing ingredients, pour over rice and stir to combine. Refrigerate for 30 minutes for flavors to marry. Per serving (1/2 cup): Calories 120; Protein 4 g;Total Fat 1.5 g; Saturated F at 0 g; Carbohydrates 22 g; Dietary Fiber 3 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 50 mg

Web Extra

Wild Rice, Grapes and Feta Salad

Makes 4 1/2 cups

  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tbs. fresh chopped rosemary
  • 1 tbs. fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 cups seedless grapes, cut in half
  • 2 tbs. crumbled feta
  • 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Rinse wild rice under cold running water and drain. Bring vegetable broth and wild rice to a boil. Simmer rice uncovered for 45 to 50 minutes or until the rice is tender. (Rice should have a nutty bite to it when cooked.) Drain excess liquid. Cover and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in rosemary, parsley, grapes and feta. Add the olive oil, rice wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Per serving (1/2 cup): Calories 130; Protein 4 g; Total Fat 1.5 g; Saturated Fat 0 g; Carbohydrates 26 g; Dietary Fiber 2 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 290 mg

Web Extra

Wild Rice and Pearl Barley Stuffing

Makes 15 servings

  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 1/4 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 tsp. minced fresh garlic
  • 2 tbs. minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tbs. minced fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 5 cups vegetable stock, heated
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts

Heat a medium saucepot over medium-high heat. Add the barley and toast. Stir the barley for about two minutes; you will notice a nutty aroma. Place the barley and wild rice in a mixing bowl and stir. In the saucepot, add the olive to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Add the onion, celery and garlic. Cook until the onions have just softened, about two minutes. Add the parsley, thyme, cherries, barely and wild rice. Stir in the hot vegetable stock, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to low. Cover the pot and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes, until the stock is absorbed and rice is al dente. Stir in walnuts. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Per serving (1/2 cup): Calories 150; Protein 4 g; Total Fat 1.5 g; Saturated Fat 0 g; C arbohydrates 24 g; Dietary Fiber 3 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 190 mg

Web Extra

Wild-Rice and Potato Griddle Cakes

Makes eight servings

  • 3 cups cooked wild rice
  • 1 mashed, peeled, baked potato
  • 1 tbs. mashed roasted garlic
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 tbs. chopped fresh herbs, such as thyme, chives, basil, oregano, or parsley

In a mixing bowl, combine the rice and potato; add the garlic, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and chopped herbs. Stir to combine (this will be a thick mixture). Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary with additional herbs, salt and pepper. Scoop out 1/3 cup of the potato mixture; using your hands, form a round cake. Repeat with remaining mixture to make 12 cakes. Heat a griddle over medium-high heat and lightly spray with olive oil. Place cakes on pan and cook, turning, until browned and heated thoroughly, about five minutes on each side. Per griddle cake: Calories 80; Protein 3 g; Total Fat 0 g; Saturated Fat 0 g; C arbohydrates 18 g; Dietary Fiber 1 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 290 mg

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