This grain is versatile, easy to prepare, and packed with goodness.
If there were a museum of the world's healthiest foods, wild rice might occupy a quiet, forgotten corner. "It's become less popular, and I rarely meet people who eat wild rice," says chef and nutritionist Gavin Pritchard, RD, CDE, of Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut. But, he adds, they really should.
Consider this: A 1-cup serving of wild rice contains 50 fewer calories and almost 10 fewer grams of carbohydrate than a cup of brown rice. But it provides more folate, zinc, and vitamin E than brown rice.
Despite its name, wild rice is not rice at all, but the seeds of edible grasses native to North America. Native Americans harvested wild rice in canoes, using long sticks to knock the seeds into the bottom of their boats.
Wild Rice Cooking Ideas
Instead of using boxed wild rice pilafs, which contain too much fat and sodium, Pritchard recommends making your own. Cook a batch, store it in the refrigerator, and add it to dishes throughout the week: Toss the wild rice with lentils or beans, stir into soups, or blend with cooked brown rice.
Other ideas: Wild rice's strong, nutty flavor and "toothy" texture pair well with ingredients like garlic, vinegars, and citrus fruits. And Pritchard likes to boil wild rice with vegetable broth or herbs. The rice absorbs the flavor as it plumps.
1. Mediterranean Wild Rice Pilaf
This delicious side dish combines favorite ingredients and has a festive color. It's also gluten-free and vegetarian.
Makes 6 servings
1 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups cooked wild rice (prepared according to package directions)
2 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (not in oil)
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp finely grated lemon peel
dash of salt
freshly ground pepper
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, and sauté 3 - 5 minutes until onion is translucent.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine onion and garlic mixture, wild rice, spinach, tomatoes, pine nuts, nutmeg, lemon peel, salt, and pepper.
4. Add mixture to a 9x11 baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with feta cheese. Cover and bake 20-30 minutes, until hot.
Per serving: 182 calories, 7 g protein, 23 g carbohydrate, 8 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 11 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 313 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 36%.