Monday, August 23, 2010

Wild Rice Salad

I was chatting recently with Alison Fryer, owner of The Cookbook Store in Toronto, about new and hot cookbooks and she mentioned a pair of titles by British chef Yotam Ottolenghi. I confess I hadn't heard of him before, but flipping through the two books (Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, and most recently Plenty) I was intrigued by what I saw -- Mediterranean- and Middle Eastern-influenced dishes with vibrant flavours such as chili, lemon, pomegranate, pistachio. Many of the dishes vegetarian. I wanted to buy both, then and there, but then I thought about my borderline-ridiculous collection of cookbooks at home and decided against it.

Instead, I went online and found two sources of Ottolenghi recipes -- the official site and the Guardian UK which features a weekly column by the man himself entitled The New Vegetarian. Jackpot! I decided I'd try out a few of his recipes first before considering buying one of his books. I started with a bulgur salad called Kisir (bottom photo), a traditional Turkish side dish made with tomato paste, parsley and spices. I'd seen it described in a few places as a spicier version of tabbouleh. This particular recipe called for pomegranates and mint, and though I subbed chopped up raspberries for the not-in-season pomegranate seeds it turned out fabulously. Filling, hearty and full of flavour.

Next up, dinner for a friend, which consisted of Roast Chicken With Chili and Basil and Wild Rice Salad (top photo). Both dishes were hits -- packed with healthy ingredients but not in any way boring. The chicken marinated in an Asian-influenced marinade of sesame oil, chili, soy sauce, and rice vinegar for hours, which gave it tons of flavour when it came time for roasting.

The Wild Rice Salad was wonderful too, getting lots of flavour from dried apricots, toasted pistachios, green onions, and fresh mint. Ottolenghi excels at these grain-based salads, and they're becoming a favourite of mine. I'm already a big fan of bulgur and quinoa, but now I'm thinking I'll have to add millet, Israeli couscous, and wild rice to the mix.


To freshen up this salad after the first day, drizzle with additional lemon juice and olive oil, and give it a good toss.

The recipes give weight measurements as opposed to cups/tablespoons, etc. I have a kitchen scale, so it's no big deal, but it's something to keep in mind. I've come to prefer the weight measurements as they're more precise.

Wild Rice Salad

250g wild rice
60g peeled pistachio
150g soft dried apricot, soaked in hot water for 5 minutes
1 small bunch of mint, leaves picked
1 small bunch of rocket
3 spring onions, roughly chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the rice in a large pot and cover with water, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and cook for 30-40 minutes, depending on the variety, or until the rice is cooked aldente. Drain and rinse under cold water.

While the rice is cooking, roast the pistachio in a dry pan over a medium heat for 8-10 minutes.

Coarsely chop them with a large knife. Drain the apricot and coarsely chop them too.

In a bowl mix the rice, apricots and pistachios. Add the rest of the ingredients, toss well and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4.


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