March 25, 2013

Warm Harvest Fruit & Nut Wild-Rice Salad

This wild-rice salad is warm, hearty, and full of protein and nutrition. It's a one-bowl, one pan meal that's ready in mere minutes. I love healthy but sumptuous dishes like this, where you can serve yourself a giant, heaping bowl and scoop up every last bite without regret. It's food at its best, doing what it should do -- fill you and energize you.

I adore this dish because it's a great mixture of flavors and textures. It's got sweet and chewy dried cranberries, the earthy crunch from toasted pecans, hunks of soft and juicy chicken, crisp asparagus, and nutty, wonderfully toothsome wild rice. Plus the zing of chopped mint on top, balanced with the creaminess of feta cheese, is far far better than finding the prize in box of cereal for dinner.

Use your favorite vinaigrette dressing or make your own. Play with goat cheese versus feta, maybe toss in some chopped dried apricots with the cranberries, or use slivered almonds for your crunch factor. Omit the chicken for a great vegetarian dish. 

Like I always say, the kitchen is for playing and personalizing... Don't take it too seriously. After a long day at work, it's time to find delight in dinnertime.

Warm Harvest Fruit & Nut Wild-Rice Salad: serves two generously
1 T. olive oil
1 boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed (optional)
1 cup wild rice
4 cups water
1/4 cup dried cranberries
12 spears frozen asparagus, defrosted and cut into 1" pieces
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 t. Chinese 5 Spice
2 T. creamy vinaigrette dressing of choice
salt & pepper to taste

1/3 cup crumbled feta or goat cheese
1/4 cup toasted pecan pieces

1 t. chopped mint leaves

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, preheat olive oil. Add the chicken breast and cook 4-5 minutes or until just cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside. Add the wild rice and stir 1 minute to toast, then pour in the water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover to cook as directed, about 40 minutes. 20 minutes in, add the dried cranberries. When the rice is barely done cooking, add the asparagus, onion, diced chicken and stir to heat through. Add the five spice and dressing, then salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the cheese, then divide into two bowls. Top with pecans and mint leaves and serve warm.

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