When I think of stuffing (or dressing), the picture that comes to mind is of day-old bread mixed with onion, celery, other vegetables, dried fruit and herbs. It's time for a change, and this year for Thanksgiving, I'm opting for a healthier but just as tasty version using wild rice, pumpkin, dried mango, cranberries, asparagus and walnuts.
For easier serving, I baked it in individual cups and covered them with a blend of Jarlsberg and cheddar cheese. That might make them a little less healthy, but it’s so worth it!
Servings: 8 servings
¾ cup wild rice
¼ cup basmati rice
2 celery stalks, peeled and diced
1 white onion, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup vegetable broth, diced
1 sage leaf, chopped
½ bunch asparagus spears, blanched and trimmed into 3"-pieces
1 cup cooked pumpkin (boiled and drained), diced
1 cup vegetable stock (or canned vegetable broth)
2 teaspoons dried cranberries
2 pieces dried mango, finely chopped
¼ cup walnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly shaved
6 tablespoons Cheddar cheese, cut into thin slices
6 tablespoons Jarlsberg cheese, cut into thin slices
Thoroughly wash both types of rice separately. Drain as much water as possible.
Fill a saucepan with cold water and bring to a boil. Add the wild rice. Bring the liquid back to a boil, then immediately decrease the heat to medium-low. Stir well to make sure the rice is submerged in liquid; that way the rice will cook even all the way through. Cook for about 40 minutes. Add the basmati rice and extend the cooking time by 20 minutes. Add a pinch of salt. Keep stirring the rice every now and then so that it doesn't stick to the bottom of the saucepan. Check often and don't wait until the grains are too soft. Drain the liquid from the rice using a fine mesh colander. Do NOT rinse. Discard the liquid. Set aside.
Return the rice to the saucepan. Using the pestle (the stick) of a mortar and pestle, create 3 evenly-spaced holes (forming a triangle) in the saucepan and pour about ¾ cup vegetable broth into the rice. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Seal the pot with an aluminum sheet and cover it. Place on the stove over high heat for about 3-4 minutes. Steam should escape from the pot. Immediately turn off the heat and allow the rice to set for at least 15 minutes. Do not remove the lid. Gently fluff the rice using long chopsticks (or a fork) without breaking or mashing the grains of rice.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a small pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and sage and cook until fragrant. Add the celery, asparagus and pumpkin. Stir well and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the remaining vegetable broth. Stir constantly until the liquid evaporates. Season with salt and pepper. Add the rice. Turn off the heat. Add the nuts, dried fruit, parsley, ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese and 3 tablespoons each cheddar and Jarlsberg cheeses. Mix well.
Divide the rice mixture among 10 silicone molds. Top with the remaining cheeses and bake for 12 minutes until the top is golden and forms a crust.
When cooking celery, don't forget to peel it first with a vegetable peeler, because it tends to be very fibrous.
Instead of baking the stuffing in silicone molds, you could stuff it into mushrooms.