Today I set out to answer the question:
What is wild rice, anyway?
According to Wikipedia, wild rice is part of the genus Zizania, which is a group of grasses that grow in the shallows of small lakes and ponds. Three varieties are grown in the United States. Wild rice is not a rice at all, but rather the seed of these aquatic grasses.
Almost always sold as a dried whole grain, wild rice is high in protein, the amino acid lysine and dietary fiber, and low in fat. Like true rice, it does not contain gluten. It is also a good source of the minerals potassium and phosphorus, and the vitamins thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. Because commercial, paddy grown wild rice is harder and denser than true rice, it must be cooked longer to become soft enough to be eaten; it generally requires cooking for at least 45-60 minutes in a ratio of wild rice to water of approximately 1 to 3. Because of its comparatively high cost and chewy texture it is often cooked together with true rice, often in a ratio of true rice to wild rice of 8 to 1 or 4 to 1.[Italics are mine, for emphasis]
Wild rice adds a satisfying chewy texture and compelling color contrast to brown or white rice, and is one of my favorite additions to rice pilaf. For this recipe, inspired by a recipe posted by a woman named Bev on a recipe board I frequent, I call for a blend of brown and wild rice. You can blend the rices yourself, using the ratios indicated above, or simply buy a pre-packaged blend of brown and wild rice. Lundberg Family Farms makes several of these mixes, including their Wild and Brown Rice Blend. Their rice mixes are kosher and gluten-free.
Sadly, I have no photograph to accompany this colorful pilaf. I hope it speaks highly of the recipe that I ate it all before I had a chance to photograph it!
PECAN RICE PILAF
1 cup brown rice and wild rice mix
2 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, ghee or olive oil
1 medium carrot, peeled and minced
1 stalk celery, minced
1/2 bell pepper, minced (optional)
1/2 cup white mushrooms, minced
1/2 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Follow the instructions on the package of brown rice-wild rice mix, using a medium-sized sauce pan and replacing the water with vegetable stock. Most mixes will call for 2 cups of liquid for 1 cup of rice. Bring the stock to a boil, add the rice, cover and turn heat to low. Simmer for the indicated amount of time (approximately 50 minutes).
In a 10" skillet, melt the butter or ghee (or heat oil) over medium heat. Add the carrot and peppers and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add celery, mushrooms, and pecans. Saute for about 2 minutes more, stirring frequently. Add the rice and stir until all ingredients are thoroughly combined and evenly hot. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste, and additional salt if necessary. Serve hot. Leftovers can be reheated or eaten as a rice salad at room temperature.
Makes about 6 servings.