Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wild Rice Salad with Goat Cheese and Dried Fruit

I won’t be cooking for Thanksgiving this year, but if I were, this salad would be on the menu. Every time I plan a Thanksgiving menu, I always want a crisp, fresh, yet autumnal salad dish to squeeze in next to the heavy gratin, the rich gravy, and the warm vegetables. Actually, I think I’ve been searching for just this sort of thing for years. I don’t know why this part of the menu is always such a stumbling block, but I never seem to find the right salad for the occasion. I suppose since I'm not distracted by planning a full menu right now, I was able to dream up this salad. The necessary components, to my thinking, were a nutty grain like wild rice, crunchy vegetable matter, sweet dried fruits, an actual nut or two, some creamy, crumbled goat cheese, and a vinaigrette with a hint of spice. What actually happened:

2 c cooked and chilled, wild rice
2 shallots, minced
3/4 c celery with leaves, chopped
3 T parsley leaves, chopped
1/4 c dried apricots, chopped
1/2 c dried cranberries
1/2 c walnuts, chopped and toasted
1/2 c pepitas, toasted
4 c baby spinach leaves
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled

4 T champagne vinegar
1 T dijon mustard
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1 t ground cumin
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste

-in a large mixing bowl, whisk together vinegar, dijon, cayenne, and cumin and continue whisking while slowly drizzling in olive oil until emulsified; season to taste with salt and black pepper
-to the large bowl, add wild rice, shallots, celery, all but two teaspoons of parsley, apricots, cranberries, walnuts, and all but a tablespoon of pepitas and toss to combine
-on a large serving platter, spread spinach leaves, spoon rice mixture over spinach, top with crumbled goat cheese and reserved pepitas and parsley

The cayenne in the vinaigrette met the sweetness of the dried fruits nicely, and the celery and parsley brightened the mix. The pale, green, inner celery stalks with leaves attached are the best. I was happy with the combo of cranberries and apricots, and the walnuts and pepitas worked well with the nuttiness of the wild rice. At last, I've found the elusive Thanksgiving salad.

This salad experiment was performed simultaneously with an Oktoberfest beer tasting. First up was Sierra Nevada Harvest. Here, the flavor was all about the hops. The second, and our favorite of this tasting, was Ayinger Oktoberfest-Marzen. Rich, full-flavored without being too heavy, it had a smooth, evenness that we will definitely return to throughout the season. And, some trivia: Oktoberfest beers are brewed in March to be ready for fall festivals, hence the appearance of Marzen on labels.

8 comments:

  1. I could make a meal out of a salad like this one. It is such a wonderful assortment of flavors and textures. You're so right, it would make a great addition to a Thanksgiving spread.

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  2. So, finally, something from the "lisa is cooking" cookbook!
    It looks beautious.
    Stacey

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  3. Alexa--this is a meal of a salad! It keeps well too if the spinach is stored separately.

    Stacey--one of these days . . . just a few more recipes to go ;)

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  4. What a great salad. Great texture, color and flavor. I may have to make this for Thanksgiving.

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  5. Lisa, this looks so so good. I love grain salads with fruit and nothing could be better than adding goat cheese. I'd take this over many things on a t-giving table!

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  6. That is one tasty looking salad. I do similar salads only with quinoa or farro etc. I am going to have to try it with wild rice.

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  7. i've never been too keen on the flavor of wild rice, but this is one heck of a gorgeous salad. i think i can get past my aversion. :)

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