Wild wild Rice
As a kid from a Chinese family, I grew up eating nothing but rice and egg noodles. Veggies with rice, fish with rice, meat with rich, potatoes with rice (wait, that was my dad). Years after years until I was ready to live on my own and explore the boundaries of food. First my mom and dad thought I wouldn’t survive (they bought me a rice cooker, for god sake) but I was quite happy to escape the rice bowls after all those years.
The first years on my own, I was eating nothing else than big bowls of noodles and pasta’s. In past years living in Rotterdam, I discovered that there was more than pasta’s. Since a couple of years I developed a strong preference for organic food and pick ingredients that are good for my health and body. Depending on the season I love to play around with different kind of textures, flavors, and seasonal vegetables. I love body warming stews and soups in fall and winter. Craving for light meals during spring and summer. I love making easy but satisfying salads. Like Israeli couscous with seasonal greens, spicy quinoa salad with tahini or, since I inherit the Asian genes, occasionally I will crave for some rice instead of pasta. This Wild wild Rice salad is easy and super fresh for hot summer days and it will give you an energy boost!
To add more variety to a diet, I like to use a blend of Wild rice, brown rice, red rice and some basmati. You can buy it in your local organic supermarket premixed or you can create your own. I love to mix up some wild rice in my rice dishes for not only the nutty flavor and texture, but it also has numerous reason why should add this to our diet. It is gluten free, high fiber to fight high cholesterol levels, extremely high in antioxidants (30 times more than white rice), twice as much protein as brown rice and full of amino acid. Also packed with vitamin B9, B3, phosphorus, and zinc. B9 (Folate) to help the body make red blood cells and is needed to keep the cardiovascular in good shape. B3 (Niacin) is important for energy function and supports the cognitive function. Phosphorus helps with energy production and keeps the bones and teeth healthy. Zinc boost up the immune system and protects the liver. Fun fact: It’s not a grain! It’s an aquatic grass seed. Indian’s have been cultivating this food since before we arrived on this land.
I like to add some chicory (or witlof in Dutch or Belgium endive) for some extra crunch, freshness and it has this slightly bitter taste that works very well with the nutty taste of the wild rice, soft texture of the lentils and sweetness of the dried cranberries. Just look for the whithest chicory. The whiter the leaf, the less bitter it will taste. The harder inner part of the stem at the bottom of the head should be cut out before cooking to prevent bitterness.
Wild wild rice
Serves 2 very hungry people
1 cup wild rice blend
1/2 cup green lentils (canned will do)
1/2 shallot (minced)
1 small glove garlic (minced)
1 medium chicory (cut in length)
1/4 cup dried cranberries (feel free to add some more)
1/4 cup walnuts (crunched)
Fresh mint leaves, cut into fine strips
Juice of 1/4 lemon
pinch of coarse sea salt
Start by giving your rice a good wash in a sieve till the water run clean. Now the fun part, this is a trick that I’ve learned from my dad, and never fails to cook perfect rice in a pan or in a rice cooker. So pick a medium pot (or rice cooker if you have one) and pour in the clean rice. Make sure it is nice even layer. Put your hand flatten out, vertical into the pan till the tip of you middle finger touches the top of the layer. Add cold water to your first finger bone of the middle finger is under water. Put the pan on a high heat and let it get to the boil (keep an eye on it!). Once it is boiling, turn it down to a low heat and let it cook till the water is soaked up by the rice. Turn off the fire and set a side with the lid on for about 15 minutes. Put in the minced shallot and garlic. The steam will make sure that it dries up a more. Make sure that the rice is cooled down before adding all the other ingredients. You might wanna get it out of a pan and let it cool in an oven dish.
If you are using a rice cooker, it is pretty much the same. Except you don’t have to watch it. Just turn it on and let the cooker do his magic.
In the mean time. Get rid of all the excess juice that comes with the lentils and give them a good wash. By washing, you will get off all the salt, preservatives and all the other things they put in to prevent them from spoiling. Let them dry up a little bit. Since they already cooked you can just eat them right out of the can (after washing of course). Repeat with the canned corn. Mince the shallot. Cut the chicory in half and remove the harder inner part to prevent the dish from getting too bitter. Slice it into very fine strips, drizzle some lemon juice over it to prevent from coloring.
Now it’s time to put everything together. Pick a pretty looking salad bowl, add rice, lentils, mint leaves, lemon juice, sea salt and toss it with your hands till it mixed up very well. Last but not least, add the chicory. You don’t want to crush the chicory to much otherwise it will loose the crunchy texture. Give it a quick toss with your hands. Serve with some fresh mint leaves and squeeze some extra lemon juice over it before serving.