Well, I suppose this is the last post in the warm winter salad month. February flew by, filled up with seasonal fare at its best. It can sometimes be a challenge to find my creative side when the ground has been frozen for 5 months, but I am always amazed at what I can pull off with a few vegetables from the cold storage and some dried goods from the pantry.
This next warm salad is probably my most beloved because it features 3 of my all-time favorite foods: wild rice, butter beans, and garlic roasted carrots. On their own, these elements are utterly delicious, but this dish is more than the sum of its perfect parts. The combination of smooth, creamy butter beans, with nutty wild rice and garlicky-salty-sweet carrots adding just a hint of crispness, come together with a tangy mustard maple dressing that will knock your winter socks off. A little on the labour-intensive side, it is well worth the effort to arrive at this truly unique and delectable salad that eats like a meal.
Into the Wild Rice
I think that wild rice is one of the most delicious whole foods available. It has a rich, nutty, almost smoky flavour, and fantastic chewy texture. Its dark colour and elegant shape add an unexpected visual contrast to any warm or cold dish.
Contrary to popular belief wild rice is in fact, not rice at all, but the seed of a wild grass that grows in the Great Lakes region of North America. The majority of what we find in the grocery store is no longer foraged, but a cultivated variety. You can still find heirloom varieties of wild rice (which of course taste the best), just make sure that the package indicates that its contents are “Hand harvested, organic, and from the Great Lakes region”. The rice is priced according to its length: the longer the grain, the more expensive it is.
As a bonus, wild rice is wildly nutritious. It is extremely high in folic acid, an essential B-complex vitamin lacking in many people’s diets. Just half a cup of cooked wild rice yields 21.3 mcg of folic acid, where brown rice offers only 3.9 mcg. The niacin content of wild rice is also notably high with l.06 mg for 1/2 cup cooked. Potassium packs an 83 mg punch, and zinc, which is usually available in trace amounts, registers 1.1 mg.
While 1/2 cup cooked wild rice offers 1.5 grams of fiber, it contains 26 mg of magnesium, a healthy balance of B vitamins and only .3 grams of unsaturated fat.
This recipe was an “accident” at work – I was using up seemingly disparate ingredients that were available that day, and this delightful salad was the end result. You can absolutely eat this cold, but again, it is a very good idea at this time of year to nourish your body with warm foods. This salad is a heating triple-hitter and combines three foods that require long cooking times. The rice itself requires between 45 and 50 minutes, the beans about the same, and the carrots around 20 minutes or so. The amount of heat you infuse into your food through the cooking process is invariably given back to you energetically, and the longer the cook time, the deeper the heat will go into your body. Amazing.
Wild Rice, Butter Bean, and Garlic Roasted Carrot Salad
1/2 cup wild rice
1 cup dried butter beans
4-5 medium carrots
1 small red onion
4 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch fresh dill
freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. mustard
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
pinch of sea salt
1. Soak beans for 8 hours or overnight. Drain, rinse well and cover with fresh water. Add a teaspoon of sea salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until beans are soft – about 45 minutes.
2. While the beans are cooking, rinse the wild rice well, drain, and put in a pot. Cover rice with 1.5 cups fresh water, add a couple pinches of sea salt, bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer. Cook until rice is chewy-tender – about 45 minutes. You will know the rice is done when the grains open up to reveal their purple-gray inner portion.
3. Preheat the oven to 400F. While the rice is cooking, wash the carrots and slice them on the diagonal into ‘coins’, place on a baking sheet. Mince the garlic and combine it with the oil. Pour over carrots and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt. Place in the oven and roast, turning them a few times over the course of 15-20 minutes. The carrots should be cooked but not mushy – al dente!
4. Make the dressing by combining all ingredients together, shake well.
5. Now all the elements come together: Drain and rinse beans in cool water to stop the cooking process. Pour dressing over warm beans and toss. Let sit for 5 minutes or so. Drain the rice if any water remains, cool slightly. Mix with beans. Toss in the carrots, scraping the pan to add garlic oil to the remainder of the ingredients. Throw in some paper-thin onions slices, a heap of fresh, chopped dill, and grind some black pepper to finish.
6. Serve immediately.
This salad is also delicious with red or black quinoa instead of wild rice; roasted sweet potatoes instead of carrots; or try any other mild white bean in place of the butter bean: cannellini, great northern, navy bean etc.
Hold tight, friends. Spring is on its way…