Thanksgiving side dish: Wild rice and fruit salad

A wild rice and fruit salad that is a little bit nutty, just like Thanksgiving.

Kitchen Report
This wild rice and fruit salad has a hearty, nutty flavor of wild rice, the freshness of fruit, and a tart dressing.

This weekend I'll be heading to a Thanksgiving “warm-up” meal, which promises to be a delicious evening full of good food and good friends before we all head out in different directions for the real holiday. There is nothing like a family of friends to be grateful with before giving thanks with the nation. A casual meal of bounty also helps to temper holiday psychosis in the kitchen (admit it, you know what I am talking about).

I'm not sure what I'll bring this year. Last year it was a wild rice and fruit salad which ended up being a total hit. One friend who decided to make it for her family a few days later reports that it has now become part of her family's cookbook of favorite recipes. I owe this culinary success story to that much-maligned domestic diva: Martha Stewart. I have a collection of “Living” magazines from 2000 (one only needs a year's worth of "Living" magazines to keep busy for a decade, trust me). This recipe for Wild Rice and Fruit Salad is from November of that year.

“On a day when warm side dishes abound, salads provide a welcome contrast,” purrs the recipe introduction. “This one has many merits: the hearty, nutty flavor of wild rice, the freshness of fruit, and a tart dressing…. It can be served chilled or at room temperature and can even be dressed in advance, since the rice will stand up to a long soak without losing its pleasant chewiness.”

Wild and nutty. Sounds like Thanksgiving to me. Other than having to hunt for wild rice in two different stores and then paying much, much more than I ever imagined I would for rice, it was worth it. If you can't find currants, you can substitute raisins, although currants are better because they are smaller. They plump up quite a bit as they absorb the dressing.

I can assure you, no one else will be bringing this to your Thanksgiving meal and it will command respect amid the sweet potatoes and the cranberry compote, and bow to the roasted turkey.

And of course, if this seems too complicated, you could resort to offering the more simple pumpkin curry soup as your Thanksgiving contribution. But I suggest you try going wild and bring the salad.

Wild rice and fruit salad

2 cups wild rice
1 tablespoon butter
1 red apple, cored and diced
Pinch of ground cloves
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 small red onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch rounds
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup currants
1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Bring 3 cups of water to boil in a medium saucepan. Add rice, reduce heat, and simmer until rice is tender and most kernels have opened, about 50 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, and set aside in a large bowl.

Melt butter in a skillet and add apple and cloves. Sautée until golden, about 3 minutes. Add to rice. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat and add onion, celery, carrot and garlic, satuée until onions are translucent and just beginning to brown, about 6 minutes. Transfer to bowl with rice and apples, add currants. Season with salt and pepper.

In the same skillet, add cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons water. Heat, whisking continually, until mixture has reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil; set aside. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss. Garnish with toasted almonds. Watch your family go wild.

Serve at room temperature or chilled. Serves 8.

Kendra Nordin blogs at Kitchen Report.

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