I have to admit, I haven’t made many winter salads. It seems I’ve been a slave to the summery green salad all year long for too long. I realized this once I made Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Wild Rice Salad, and it won me over.
Winter salads are typified by grains, roasted veggies, nuts and seeds, dried fruits, and citrus. And winter squash. And beans. And lentils. Mostly they are dressed with a vinaigrette fueled by all sorts of flavors. The dressing brings brightness to the earthy flavors of the salad, especially when freshly squeezed lemon is in the mix.
So, this salad. I am a fan of roasted Brussels sprouts and while the wee cabbage lookalikes mellow and go soft in the oven, the wild rice simmers on the stove. True wild rice is not rice at all, but the seeds of water grass. In the U.S., wild rice is grown largely in Minnesota and California. I used a wild rice blend for this recipe, that included some brown rice. It worked well, but be warned that a blend or true wild rice takes about 45 minutes to cook. (There are quick versions but I prefer the long-cooking varieties. They have more flavor and chew. Think about the difference between instant oatmeal and steel-cut.)
I like crunch in my salads, so I added diced celery and pecans. The different textures bring more interest. I had some fun with the vinaigrette (I know, my idea of fun is goofy) by whisking in pure maple syrup. Just a tinge makes a difference. More sweetness comes from dried cranberries.
I served my salad at room temperature with roasted chicken. It was colder than I would have wanted because it had sat out for a while. It was a chilly day in Florida. Honest. It would be best warm. I toted it to work the next day topped with pieces of leftover chicken. A zap in the microwave and everyone was jealous.
The best salad for a party - Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Wild Rice Salad
- 1 cup uncooked wild rice
- 1 pound Brussels sprouts washed and halved
- 3 large whole garlic cloves unpeeled
- 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon coarse salt
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup diced celery
- 1/3 cup chopped pecans
- ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- Zest of ½ lemon
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon real maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon coarse salt
- Juice of ½ lemon
Cook wild rice according to package instructions. This will take about 45 minutes.
While the wild rice is cooking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place prepared Brussels sprouts and unpeeled garlic cloves on a baking sheet with a lip. Coat evenly with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast for about 20 to 25 minutes, stirring and flipping midway though cooking.
To prepare the vinaigrette, whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon, maple syrup black pepper and salt, and lemon. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, toss together the cooked wild rice, Brussels sprouts, smashed cooked garlic (peeled), cranberries, celery, pecans and lemon zest. Stir in vinaigrette to taste (you may have some left over.) Toss to combine. Top with Parmesan cheese. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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