Welcome to sexy Thanksgiving salad season, friends!
Last year, I opined about why my mother and I are such a fan of having a simple green salad on the table at Thanksgiving, even though we are the only ones who eat it. This wild rice salad recipe is not really the same thing, but it certainly is a happy medium that my family is much more likely to shell out real estate on their plates for.
I always wonder why wild rice doesn’t get as much attention as brown in the wellness zeitgeist, despite it being a whole grain in every sense of the word. In addition to being very high in fiber, it’s also full of antioxidants like manganese, which among other things, can support a healthy metabolism.
Wild rice is actually not a rice at all. It is an aquatic grass. Though it’s now mostly farmed in California, there are still a few indigenous communities that have preserved the way it was originally harvested from lakes in Minnesota.
Perhaps its presence on some Thanksgiving tables back in the day is why I always think of wild rice as not just a holiday dish but a seasonal fall food.
This recipe is adapted from an old BGSK fall dish that used orzo as the base. It was tossed with roasted Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, shallots and chickpeas. And then doused in one of my favorite sauces (that I had completely forgotten about): a fresh ginger and walnut dressing with fresh lime juice, Dijon and cider vinegar.
After my triumphant beet segment, the folks at The Doctors asked me to come back on and do a segment on Brussels Sprouts. In poking around my recipe archives, they happened upon the orzo dish and thought it was perfect for a Thanksgiving grain salad option. So here we are with the easy swap of using wild rice. And I must say: I prefer this version!
If you want to beef up the salad even more you can add some massaged kale or arugula to it. But I love that all the elements here can be made in advance. You can toss everything together save for the dressing a few days before the holiday. And since there are no fresh herbs in the sauce, it keeps very well too for up to a week.
I do realize that this mix of ingredients is a low FODMAP gal’s nightmare, and I have to admit that I was nervous going into recreating this dish. I almost left out the chickpeas and the onion. But I forged ahead, and have to say how pleased and shocked I was at how little reaction I had to the dish when I ate it.
I think part of it was the lesson of the low FODMAP diet: that having small amounts of each of these ingredients together on the plate can be so different than eating a mound of Brussels sprouts or chickpeas on their own. The wild rice is also a great way to stretch these veggies so you’re not having them in such density.
The moral of this anecdote is: while this dish is very much NOT low FODMAP, if you’ve come out the other side of this restrictive diet, don’t knock it ‘til you try it.
For everyone else, I highly recommend giving this wild rice salad with roasted butternut squash, Brussels sprouts and ginger-walnut dressing a try for your Thanksgiving table, or really any large fall gathering. It’s gluten-free, vegan and absolutely delicious.
With health and hedonism,
Wild Rice with Roasted Squash, Brussels Sprouts, and Ginger-Walnut Dressing
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the rinsed rice to the pot and cook, uncovered, until al dente, about 45 minutes. Drain the wild rice and return it to the pot. Place a dish towel over the top to catch the steam; allow it to sit for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, on a parchment-lined baking sheet, combine the squash, chickpeas, shallots, cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Drizzle with olive oil and toss with your hands so everything is well combined. Arrange in an even layer and roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the squash is caramelized but not falling apart.
- On another cookie sheet, drizzle the Brussels sprouts with oil and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Arrange cut-side down on the pan. Transfer to the oven, and roast alongside the squash for about 15 minutes, until they are brown and crispy all over.
- While the veggies are roasting, make the dressing: in a small food processor, pulse the ginger, garlic and walnuts until finely chopped. Add the honey or maple syrup, Dijon, lime juice, vinegar, salt, and cayenne. Drizzle in the olive oil until the dressing consistency is in between that of vinaigrette and that of a pesto—you don’t want it too thin.
- Toss the warm rice with the roasted veggies and the dressing. Taste for seasoning and add any salt as necessary. Serve warm or at room temperature.