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Hello Fall! Wild Rice and Squash

November 3, 2011

Wow… first off, sorry for my very long unexpected hiatus.  I spent a couple weeks after our trip going through my typical post-travel “woe-is-me-why-can’t-I-just-sell-all-my-belongings-and-roam-the-world-for-a-living?” mourning period, daydreaming about Ligurian pesto, fresh Pecorino, Brunello di Montalcino, Amalfi coast seafood…  Since I promised you all I would avoid excessive posts about our Italy adventures, I refrained from writing anything.  Then, in recent weeks, blog life was put on hold in favor of real life, as I spent much-needed time with my family.

And now, suddenly, it is November.  November.  Seriously.  Wisconsinites know this as the time when you can no longer deny that winter is coming.  Put away the lawnmower and ready the snowblower (or buy new shovels if, like me, you’re too cheap to buy a snowblower – I mean $900!? Seriously?)

I deal with the depression of knowing I won’t see 60 degrees again for 6 months by embracing the little things that fall brings.

Out comes my overstocked scarf collection (somehow every year I convince myself there’s a color or pattern I don’t have, and desperately need – this year I’m seeking a brown and gold print…)

A new puffy vest+plaid shirt+scarf combo appears each day.  AJ starts to think he’s dating a lumberjack.  If you think I’m joking, here’s a little photographic evidence of my standard late-fall and early-spring uniform:

      

Obvious from half these pictures also is that I start consuming larger quantities of beer (helps with the winter insulation).

And, as far as food is concerned, like most folks, my tastes change.  Goodbye heirloom tomatoes and fresh raspberries.  Hello cranberries and all things pumpkin!

Two foods I pretty exclusively eat in fall are wild rice and squash, and in the past I’ve been pretty traditional – wild rice plain, with a little butter, and squash roasted with A LOT of butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  But, this year, I’ve been a little more experimental.  It is WILD rice after all (eh, eh?  I’m so punny).  So, here’s wild rice – 1 batch, 2 ways:

Wild and Brown Rice “Risotto”

  • 1 T olive oil or butter
  • 1 small onion or a couple shallots, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 c wild rice
  • 1/2 c brown rice
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt and pepper
Saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil or butter in a medium saucepan or small pot.  Rinse the rice in a fine mesh strainer, and add to pan – let the rice toast for about a minute, and then add all the liquid.  Cover. Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, and leave covered.  Don’t mess with it for at least 35 minutes.  At that point, you can periodically fluff it to check for doneness.  It can take anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour – just be patient.
 
Dinner #1: Scallops and Homemade Breadcrumbs on Wild Rice Risotto
Beyond easy.  All ya need is a little olive oil and butter, scallops, and whatever really stale bread you have.  I used a hunk of rock-hard Rosemary Olive Oil bread.  My bread crumbs didn’t get very fine, since my food processor sucks, so they didn’t stick to the scallops very well – no worries, I just sauteed them alongside the scallops (about 3-4 minutes per side) and they came out like yummy little buttered toasted croutons.    Place the scallops and breadcrumbs on top of a big pile of rice and Voila!  Mmmm…
 
Dinner #2: Wild Rice, Sausage, and Apple Stuffed Acorn Squash
I wanted to use the wild rice for something more exciting than standard leftover side dish, and the squash inspired me.  Preheat oven to 350.  Halve 1 small acorn squash and scrape out seeds.  Butter the cut edges of squash, and roast cut-side down in a dish for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, dice up 1 precooked sausage (I used an apple-smoked chicken sausage), and half an apple.  Mix up with the leftover rice.  When the squash looks almost done (fork-tender, but still a little tough in parts), cut a quarter-sized disc off the rounded side to make a base, flip them over onto the new flat base you made, and stuff with the rice mixture.  Put back in oven for another 10-15 minutes, then serve (I sauteed a little spinach on the side).  Yum!
      
We tried the new Cran-Bic Ale from New Glarus Brewery’s limited small-batch Thumbprint series with this.  I get excited anytime I see the characteristic red foil-topped limited edition bottles from New Glarus.  This one is definitely a fave for me, but not for AJ.  But, I love all their fruit beers, and AJ doesn’t like any of them, so go figure.  We both found it to be very woody, and overall the cranberry flavor is definitely bold.
Ok, I’m going to go have a caramel apple and leftover Halloween candy for lunch now – yay November!
What’s your favorite recipe that you only make in the fall?
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