In my kitchen, I’m still thinking about the basics, so today I’m thinking about rice: Rice is to the world as corn is to America. It is a staple for half the world’s population, and makes up 60% of the total food intake in Southeast Asia. It supplies more calories and protein per area cultivated than corn or wheat, but is much less efficient than those in terms of water usage. Like corn, it is often consumed in processed form (white rice), but rice is widely available in hardier, more nutritional varieties (brown rice, wild rice, and heritage breeds). I love just plain rice with beans, but the heritage varieties inspire more playful ingredients.
The heritage breeds of rice are often richly colored and complex in taste. Black rice (also known as Forbidden Rice) is purple-y, high in antioxidants and iron and lots of other good things, and has a nutty taste. Legend has it that it was regarded a powerful aphrodisiac in ancient China, and was reserved for the emperor to administer to his consorts. Although I’m not feeling particularly optimistic about love stories at the moment, this soppy myth couldn’t counteract my interest in its superfood-status health benefits. Wild rice, however, is native to Minnesota (where I am!), so my rice recipe features American wild rice. And it is also enormously healthy.
My grandmother happens to make an awesome wild rice salad. It is chewy—texture is an important part of eating for me, and it is something that white rice often does not deliver. You can also really add anything to it that you want, but it’s nice if the other ingredients are colorful. Yum!
Sarah Trautman is a Junior English major at Carleton College, writing for SKC as one of the few Midwest correspondents. Her transition back to Minnesota has been aided by hot dishes and smorgasbords.
Wild Rice Salad
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup wild rice
1/4 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup tomatoes
1 cup spinach
3 tablespoons pine nuts
In a medium sized pot, bring 3 cups salted water to a boil. Add the rice, and turn down the heat under the pot so that it simmers. Cover the pot and let simmer.
Check the rice after 30 minutes. When the kernels puff open (30-50 minutes), fluff the rice with a fork and let it simmer uncovered for an extra five minutes. Then, drain the extra water. Less cooking time will result in chewier rice—taste it to find your desired texture!
Remove the rice from the pot and allow it to cool in a bowl.
Meanwhile, prepare the mix-ins. Crumble the feta cheese into a medium sized bowl. Wash and then chop the tomatoes and spinach into small pieces, and add to the feta. Toast the pine nuts, either in a toaster or on a stove. In the toaster, spread out the pine nuts on a tray and cook for 2 minutes or until toasted, checking frequently. On the stove, put the pine nuts onto a small hot pan and stir frequently until toasted.
When the wild rice is cool, add the mix-ins and refrigerate. Enjoy!