Everyone does bread stuffing for Thanksgiving, which admittedly I love as well. But sometimes it's nice to change it up with rice. I developed the following recipe paying attention to both the flavors and colors of fall. Sometimes it's nice to also see the traditional burnt oranges, golden yellows, deep purples, and specks of bright greens in our food as well as the decorations in and around our homes. In fact, food can act in and of itself as a decoration on the table -- a delicious and edible one at that!
I tend to prefer to use seasonal ingredients because they are at their peak within that season. Why use a tomato in January if it tastes like shit? Pointless. Use broccoli instead when it's in its most glorious state. So for this dish, I take a page from history and use dried fruits as the body of my dish. You can use any dried fruit you wish for this rice dish -- truly anything would work here -- but I like the colors that dried apricots, cranberries, cherries, and mango give to the dish. And together with fresh green herbs and some warming spices, it's a wonderful side dish for your Thanksgiving meal as well as for any fall and winter week night dinner.
Autumn Wild Rice with Dried Fruits and Pine Nuts
1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil + 3 Tbsp for saute
1 large onion, chopped
6 large garlic cloves, minced
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup wild rice
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 3/4 - 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbs fresh mint, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme, leaves picked off the stems
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped small
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried cherries
2 Tbsp dried mango
Heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and season with some salt and pepper (a pinch of each is fine). Cook on medium heat until onion becomes softened and lightly golden around the edges, about 10 minutes. Adjust the heat on the stove if you have to so onions don't burn. Add the garlic and coook another minute until garlic is fragrant. Add the wild rice and mix to combine. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover with lid, and simmer until rice is just under tender (just under al dente), about 40 minutes.
Now add the white rice. The reason why you don't add the rices at the same time is because wild rice takes a lot longer to cook than white rice; if you added them at the same time either the wild one will be too undercooked or the white one will dissintegrate. Cover the pot with a lid and simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed and both rices are nice and tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
In a small bowl, combine the rest of the olive oil (1/4 cup), lemon zest and juice and whisk to combine. Pour this "dressing" over the rice right in the pot. Add the parsley, mint, thyme, pine nuts, and dried fuits and toss to combine. Place in a serving platter and serve hot or at room temperature. Can also be served cold.