Dishing It: Ina Garten’s Wild Rice Salad

November 3, 2010 at 9:07 am , by

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This salad recipe (which ran in our November 2010 issue on page 150) intrigued my wife and me for several reasons, not least among which is that it seems to provide a wonderful side dish for many occasions. It would support any number of main dishes no matter the season and might very well stand on its own as the main event at a luncheon at any time of year—pair it with fresh-baked baguettes and the right complementary wine and no guest would go unsatisfied or underfed.

The recipe is not only a breeze to make but fun as well. This is the sort of recipe that any beginning chef ought to be able to master because its steps are so clear and its success is all but guaranteed. That said, it is also the sort of recipe that any pro should be able to make since its flavors are extremely complex: This Wild Rice Salad is as hearty and crunchy, owing to its rice and nuts and grapes, as it is subtle, owing to its varied sweet-salt-acid palate. To say that it is a wild ride on a thrilling roller coaster would be no exaggeration, for its flavors keep unfolding the longer you sample it. But first, here is how its assembly went.

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Indeed, the only time-consuming part to this recipe (other than eating it, of course) is cooking the rice. Wild rice takes nearly an hour to prep (unlike the mere 20 minutes that white rice takes). After that, assembly is straightforward: You add the oranges to the cooled rice, then the olive oil, orange juice, raspberry vinegar, grapes (we used green per the recipe but you could also use Thompson Seedless or any other variety‚ even Concord), pecans, dried cranberries, scallions, salt and pepper. But forget about waiting 30 minutes before sitting down to eat this luscious salad. If you can wait 30 minutes you are either not hungry or your nose is not working.

So, the first thought we had, after assembling all of the dish’s ingredients, was which type of wine would play best against its delightful mix of salty sweetness and beaucoup crunch. We wanted a wine that would not steal the show, so to speak, one that would be happy to let the salad make the bold statement. Bingo! A mild rosé, one whose subtlety of delicate floral bouquet and perfect acidity and low alcohol level and total lack of tannins and wood would marry best with the salad’s forceful flavors. So of all the rosés available, we opted for one from Provence, since they for the most part are the most discreet: They lend themselves to get-togethers of all sorts, from simple cheese and fruit appetizers to chocolate-themed desserts. We picked Chateau Miraval’s 2009 Pink Floyd, a rosé known for its authenticity and trueness to the Provencal type. Chateau Miraval has an up-to-date winemaking facility that uses stainless steel and no oak and that makes its rosés from the historic tried-and-true combination of cinsault (60%) and grenache (30%) with the modern addition of syrah (10%). Its rosés are meant to be drunk young—freshness in a rosé is part of its appeal.  — Tom and Lindsay Claire

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