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Wild Rice: Not Just For Thanksgiving

Although wild rice is often served around Thanksgiving, it isn't just for that holiday, and is great any time of year, according to cookbook author and cooking teacher Tori Ritchie.

She says it's actually a pleasantly chewy, tasty, nutritious grain to eat anytime. It sports a nutty flavor.

It's also not actually rice! It's the seed of a marsh grass native to the northern Great Lakes region and was harvested by Native Americans in canoes. Wild rice is now also farmed elsewhere, in the Midwest as well as in California and Canada.

In California and Minnesota, wild rice grows throughout the summer and is harvested in September and October. Its earthy flavor makes it a perfect grain for serving during the autumn months.

In the "Five-Minute Cooking School" Thursday, Ritchie shared recipes and tips from the flagship store in Manhattan of The Early Show partner Williams-Sonoma, the specialty home furnishings retailer.

Ritchie likes to cook wild rice like pasta (boil it in a big pot of salted water, then drain in a colander), because different batches expand by different amounts. Many recipes call for cooking like rice, only with a higher ratio of rice to liquid: One cup of raw wild rice equals three to four cups cooked.

Some recipes say to rinse wild rice, Ritchie explains, and this is probably left over from when it was bought in bulk and was dusty, but it's still a good idea to rinse it before adding it to the pot.


Wild Rice Salad with Chestnuts

This is an unusual, nutritious salad for fall and winter meals.

1 cup wild rice
1/2 tsp. salt
4 cups cold water
2 large radishes, thinly sliced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 lb. peeled cooked chestnuts, sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 1/2 Tbs. cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. prepared mustard
6 1/2 Tbs. vegetable oil

Rinse the rice in cold water, then drain. In a large saucepan, combine the rice, salt and water. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the rice is al dente, about 40 minutes. Drain the rice in a large sieve. Rinse with cold water and set aside to cool. The rice may be prepared a few days ahead.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked rice, radishes, green onions and chestnuts. Season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar and mustard. Slowly whisk in the oil. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well.

Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma TASTE Magazine, "Ode to the Chestnut," by Fran Gage (Holiday 2001)

For more recipes, go to Page 2.

Stir-Fried Wild Rice

Here's a totally fun, unique way to use it:

2 cups chicken broth
1 cup wild rice
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/2 cup chopped bok choy
1 Tbs. chopped garlic
1 Tbs. chopped fresh ginger
1/4 cup julienned red bell pepper
1/4 cup diced poblano chili
1/4 cup bean sprouts
1/4 cup chopped scallions
2 Tbs. hoisin sauce
2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp. fresh lime juice

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the chicken broth and wild rice. Cover and cook until tender, about 40 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 10 minutes.

In a wok over high heat, warm the sesame oil. When hot, add the bok choy and stir-fry for 15 seconds. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 15 seconds. Stir in the bell pepper, poblano chili, bean sprouts and scallions, then stir in the wild rice. Add the hoisin sauce, cilantro and lime juice and stir to mix. Serve immediately.

Serves 6.

Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.

Wild Rice and Wild Mushroom Soup

This is an especially good way to use up leftover wild rice:

1/2 cup wild rice
3 cups boiling water
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
1/2 oz. dried wild mushrooms, such as porcini, chanterelles or shiitakes
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 lb. fresh button mushrooms, brushed clean and sliced
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Rinse the wild rice in several changes of water and drain. Place the rice in a saucepan and add 2 cups of the boiling water and the 1/2 tsp. salt.

Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low, cover and cook, without stirring, until the rice is tender and the water is absorbed, about 40 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Meanwhile, place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and add the remaining 1 cup boiling water. Let stand for 30 minutes until softened. Drain, reserving the liquid, and set the mushrooms aside. Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth. Set aside.

In a soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and celery and sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Increase the heat to high, add the wine and cook until reduced to about 2 Tbs., 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add the fresh and rehydrated mushrooms and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms wilt, about 15 minutes. Increase the heat to high, add the stock and the reserved mushroom liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, until the mushrooms are very soft, about 20 minutes. Add the wild rice and the cream and simmer for 5 minutes more to blend the flavors. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and garnish with the parsley. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Seasonal Celebration Series, Autumn, by Joanne Weir (Time-Life Books, 1997)

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