Wild Rice and Orzo Salad with Maple Vinaigrette
This dish is really three recipes in one. I combined my wild rice, kidney bean salad and orzo pasta salad recipes together to make a light and healthy meal. The maple vinaigrette helps tie everything together.
I usually make orzo pasta salad for parties and picnics, but we've been having a heat wave here and we all felt like eating something cool. The addition of kidney beans for protein and wild rice for fiber makes the dish more of a complete meal. If you have some leftover roast chicken, you can dice or shred it and add it to the salad as well.
Yields: 14 servings2-1/2 cups orzo pasta
2 cups wild rice
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
2 limes, juiced
1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 jalapeño peppers, roasted, skinned, seeded and finely chopped
2 red bell peppers
12 ounces green beans
2/3 cup black olives, sliced
3 corn ears, husked
1/4 cup dried golden currants
1 teabag Earl Grey Tea
1/3 cup Cotija cheese, diced
1/3 cup pine nuts, slightly dry-toasted
1 clove pickled garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon honey Dijon mustard
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon onion chives, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cilantro, finely chopped
1 (12-ounce) package cup-shaped tortilla chips, optional
For the maple vinaigrette: Use a sealable container (like a previously washed with hot soapy water mustard container). In this order, combine the sugar, 1/2 the amount of juice of a lime, mustard, pickled garlic, grapeseed oil and maple syrup in the container. Seal the container and shake until emulsified. Add the onion chives. Mix well. Set aside.
For the wild rice:
Wash the wild rice thoroughly. Cover with water. Add 1/2 the amount of juice of a lime. Soak for at least 2 hours. Drain as much water as possible.
In a saucepan, bring about 3 cups of water to a boil. Add the wild rice. Bring the liquid back to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cover with a lid and cook for about 50-55 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of salt half way through the cooking process. The wild rice should be tender. Drain the rice, do NOT rinse. Let it cool completely.
For the orzo pasta:
Bring about 8 quarts of water to a boil. Add the pasta, bring back to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to a gentle boil. That way the pasta is cooked all the way through evenly. Cook the pasta for about 12 minutes total. Salt the water half way through the cooking process, add some olive oil (it will bring out the natural flavor of the pasta and the pasta will be more tender) and keep stirring every now and then so that the pasta does not stick to the bottom. It may take longer than the cooking time that is written on the box.
When the pasta is cooked (cooked inside and out but still in shape and firm), drain the pasta (do NOT rinse). Transfer the cooked pasta to a bowl. Add the lemon juice and its zest. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Let the pasta cool to room temperature. Add about 1/3 cup of the maple vinaigrette. Mix well. Plastic-wrap the bowl, then chill in the refrigerator until the rest of the ingredients are ready.
For the dried golden currants: Make a cup of of Earl Grey tea. Soak the currants in the hot cup of tea and let them sit for at least half an hour, then strain and reserve the currants. Discard the liquid.
For the green beans: Wash the green beans. Blanch them for about 2 minutes in boiling water and transfer into an ice bath. Drain thoroughly and pat dry on a paper towel. Do not overcook the green beans; they should still be tender and crisp, not mushy, or you will have depleted all the healthy nutrients. Trim the ends of the beans. Cut the beans into 1/2 inch long pieces. Set aside.
Steaming the corn: Fill a pot with water. Add the steamer insert, place the corn ears in the steamer and steam for about 10-12 minutes after boiling begins. Cut the corn kernels off the cob. Set aside.
For the bell pepper: Wash the bell peppers; pat dry and brush with oil. Place a grill on your stove and char all the skin of the bell pepper. Wrap in aluminum foil. Let cool for about 10 minutes. Wash the bell pepper under running water; the skin will come right off. Seed and dice the bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper.
Assembly time: Combine all the ingredients. Add the cilantro. Drizzle with the maple vinaigrette. Toss well. Season with the remaining salt and pepper.
Serve at room temperature. Serve the salad in mini-cup-shaped tortilla chips if you like. Or you can accompany the wild rice and orzo salad with a steak or roasted chicken.
The key to a good wild rice and orzo salad is to have a homogeneous mixture. All the vegetables should be the same size. I cut everything into 1/2-inch pieces. The other factor to a good salad in general is to have a flavorful vinaigrette.
Wild rice has a nutty, fragrant aroma and brings texture to the salad. You can find wild rice in specialty stores and it's becoming more widely available in regular markets. 2 cups of raw wild rice yields 6 to 8 cups cooked.
Cooking corn in the microwave: Another way to cook the corn is by wrapping with plastic wrap the corn ears with their inner husks and cooking in the microwave for 2 minutes. Let it cool a bit. Carefully remove all the husks. Wrap the corn ears one more time with plastic wrap and cook in the microwave for another 2 minutes.
How to cut the corn kernels off the cob: Just stand the corn ear on end in a large bowl and slice the kernels down with a sawing motion.
Each cob yields about 3/4 cup of corn.
I used Cotija cheese to keep the Mexican theme but you can use any hard cow's milk cheese, such as tomme de Savoie, Comté cheese or Mimolette cheese (it's the orange-colored one).
I served the salad in mini-cups of tortilla chips. These were Tostitos Scoops Tortilla Chips. If you want to keep the dish gluten-free, ship this step.
You've probably noticed I use a lot of roasted bell peppers in my cooking. I usually roast 2-3 bell peppers at a time. I sprinkle some salt on the roasted bell peppers, place them in a jar and fill it up with pure olive oil. Stored in the refrigerator, they can be kept up to a week. The olive oil will become cloudy in the refrigerator but will regain its regular clarity when brought back to room temperature.Published By: on September 6, 2009.