The most versatile among the food grains, rice is the staple food of over half the world’s population. It is the largest cultivated crop and provides more than one fifth of the calories consumed worldwide by humans.
Rice cultivation originated in the Pearl River Valley of Chine, close to 10,000 years ago. From there, it spread to countries in South and Southeast Asia like India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Legend has it that is was the soldiers of Alexander the Great that brought this grain to Europe. And when Europeans started the colonization of the American continent, rice reached there too.
There are many varieties of rice available today, each one suitable for particular ways of cooking. Like basmati for a pulav or arborio for a risotto. And if we start talking about the many many dishes that can be made out of rice, we will be here a long time. 🙂
However, when I consider rice dishes, a salad was the last thing that came to my mind. That is, until recently. Ever since I came upon this fantastic salad made out of wild rice, it has become one of my favourites. Of course, over the course of preparing it many times, I have tweaked it quite a bit to get it to a state of perfection.
Wild rice, by the way, is in no way related to the rice plant. It is the seeds of a semi-aquatic grass that grows in lakes and river bays, in waters two to four feet deep. These grain like seeds used to be gathered and consumed by the native American tribes. Wild rice farming is of rather recent origin.
Interesting to note, wild rice is Minnesota’s state grain. And within the state, the non-farmed wild rice can be harvested only in the traditional way, without the use of any machinery.
Wild rice is most appreciated for its rich nutty flavour, which works well even when combined with other rice varieties. For this particular salad, I used a mixture of wild rice, red and brown rice and some black Japonica rice.
The dressing is rather creamy, the main ingredient being cream cheese. Balancing the creaminess, is the spiciness of the whole grain mustard and red chilli flakes, the crushed garlic and orange zest adding to the flavours.
A bit of light cream is used to make the dressing easier to pour. But it should not be too liquidy either.
The best part of this salad is to build it up. Start with the endive leaves on a serving platter. They should be placed close enough, but not overlapping. The idea is to ensure that you can life each leaf individually with the stuff piled on top of it.
Now place the cooked rice, covering the lower half of the leaves.
Pour some of the dressing over the rice. And do resist the temptation to scoop it up already! (I’m speaking from experience!)
Next is the turn of the beets and oranges. Pile them up on top of the rice.
They do look pretty, don’t they?
More dressing on top; and a few chives snipped on top completes the salad.
This salad can be eaten as a lunch on its own or can be served before a hearty meat main course.
Light and refreshing, yet filling too!
- 1 cup wild rice or mix of rice including wild rice
- 2 medium beets
- 1 can (12 oz) orange segments
- 2 hearts of endive
- 3 tbsp cream cheese
- 3 tbsp light cream
- 1 ½ tsp whole grain mustard
- 1 ½ tsp orange zest
- 1 garlic clove
- A pinch red chilli flakes
- A few sprigs of chive
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook the rice according to directions on the packet.
- Skin the beets and cut them into ½ inch cubes.
- In a pan of salted water, boil the beets until tender. Drain and keep aside.
- Drain the can of oranges and keep aside.
- Separate the endives into leaves.
- Crush the garlic clove.
- Mix the cream cheese with mustard, orange zest, crushed garlic, and chilli flakes.
- When thoroughly mixed, add the cream a little at a time till the desired consistency is reached. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- In a serving platter, arrange the endive leaves in a single row, forming a border.
- Place the rice on the leaves, covering their lower half.
- Pour two table spoons of dressing over the rice.
- Mix the beets and oranges gently, and add to the platter, on top of the rice.
- Pour the remaining dressing over the top.
- Garnish with snipped chives and get ready for compliments!