Growing up, I remember how excited my mother used to get when some Midwestern relative or childhood friend would send us a package of wild rice as a gift. As she cooked the rice, she would emphatically tell us about what a nice treat we were about to receive. I would peer over the stove, waiting to taste the mysterious concoction that was releasing woodland odors into our family room. It was black, and creepy looking, and I half expected the stuff to come alive and attack me. My mother’s excitement was convincing, contagious even, it was fueled by the fondness of childhood memories.
When at last, dinner was served, I stared apprehensively at the pile of what looked like bird seed on my plate. I remember wanting to like it as I scooped that first bite up to my mouth, but then..
“It tastes like twigs” I whined, feeling let down.
It’s funny how our taste changes as we get older. I now understand exactly what my mother meant when she insisted that wild rice was a treat, though I’m not sure exactly when or how it earned my favor. Perhaps it was the first time I experienced wild rice with cranberries, or wild rice in chicken soup. Perhaps it was the first time I tried real, hand-processed, wild rice as opposed to paddy rice which has a more rustic texture.
Actually, I now find that I like both kinds of rice, for different reasons. I used paddy rice for this salad, mainly because I forgot to pick some up from the market and couldn’t get any of the real stuff at the store.
Wild Rice with Apples Salad
1 1/2 cups cooked wild rice
1/2 fennel bulb, diced
1 sweet tango apple
2 Tbsp hazelnut infused olive oil
pinch salt and pepper
1 Tbsp rice vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
1/2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh marjoram (a little goes a long way)
To cook rice:
(If using hand cultivated rice, consider yourself a very lucky individual. It takes a lot of work to hand process rice, and the flavor is supreme. Generally hand cultivated wild rice cooks faster than paddy rice, and needs to be rinsed three times before cooking.)
Rinse the rice before cooking, then toast in 1 Tbsp olive oil in saucepan before adding water (I think it cooks faster this way). Add water in amounts indicated on package for desired serving sizes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until cooked (I usually turn the heat off toward the end of the cooking and just leave it on the stove covered for a few hours while I do other things).
Christina’s vote: “Strange combination”