Celebrating Wild Rice
This past weekend I was invited to share a cooking demo at the Saint Paul Farmers Market. I have been so inspired by this community, of which ignited my love of cooking, regenerative agriculture and the local food movement. When deciding what to share I realized that I wanted to feature Wild Rice or as the Anishinaabe call it manoomin. It is the only grain native to North America, a semi-aquatic plant growing in the rivers and lakes of the Great Lakes region. Wild rice is a sacred food to the people of this land, a food that provides physical, spiritual and communal health to those who both gather, consume and share in its nourishing properties.
Fred Ackley of the Mole Lake Reservation states, “We have a relationship to everything in nature, we are part of nature. The trees, the water, the marshes, lakes, those things all have spirits. When you harvest a plant you’re not only harvesting food, you are harvesting part of that spirit, and when it is taken into your body it becomes part of you.” We have a tendency of of separating ourselves from the earth. In a culture that is surrounded by more concrete than trees, we can lose sight of our connectedness and our responsibility to the planet and plants that we rely on for life. “When our time comes to leave this earth, we go back, our spirits go on and our bodies return to feed the earth from which it came.”
When we buy local and source our ingredients from those such as the Anishinaabe who responsibly harvest wild rice and the farmers who practice regenerative agriculture, we are directly investing the health of our climate, our bodies and communities. Our bodies feel different as well, our senses infused with the flavors and aromas that only the most nutritious and flavor ingredients can muster. In Dan Barbers book The Third Plate, he discusses having accidentally growing more nutritious plants over time. His farmers were breeding for flavor, but flavor is there for a reason. Our senses tell us through pleasure that something is inherently supportive for our health. Don’t believe me, take a tomato from the grocery store and buy another from an organic grower at your local market. Do a blind taste test. 99.9% of the time the market tomato will surpass that of conventional. Then pay attention to how you feel. The rich tasting tomato satisfies our hunger, while the conventional one has us craving more food to fill up. This is your body craving nutrients not calories.
I’ve attached here a beautiful short clip on how Manoomin is harvested by the Ojibwe people today.
Anyway I digress. Along with the Wild Rice the harvest season is in full bloom, the last of the summers zucchini and eggplant are being enjoyed and the brassicas (cauliflower, broccoli) as well as amazing fall herbs are gracing us with their presence. The weather is still allowing for some last of the season grills, a method of cooking that imbues anything with the primal taste of smoke and charr. Grilled vegetables are the perfect pairing with the nuttiness of wild rice, the herb infused oil with lemon juice offers just the right amount of lift to give the simple dish a feeling of ultimate satisfaction.
Anytime you are making a grain, or soup start with broth! The simplest way is to save your veggie scraps (tops of carrots, outer layer of onions, garlic tips, broccoli stems) put them in a container and store in the freezer. When you’ve gathered enough through in a crockpot, cover with water and let simmer for 24 hours and salt to taste.
**hint soak wild rice overnight in stock to cook up in 1/2 the time!
Wild Rice Recipe:
-1 cup wild rice
-2 1/2 cups vegetable broth or chicken stalk
-1 onion sautéed in ghee
-1 tablespoon each fresh sage, rosemary and thyme
Place wild rice, stock and salt in saucepan and allow to soak overnight.
Bring to boil adding herbs, then turn down heat to low and let simmer 40 minutes.
In separate pan sauté onions with ghee until translucent and add to wild rice pot while still cooking.
You’ll know it is cooked when some of the kernels are burst open and water is absorbed
Grilled Fall Vegetable:
-Eggplant, Zucchini, Carrots, Cauliflower, Broccoli
-1 cup olive oil
-1 head of garlic minced
-1/4 cup mix fresh rosemary and sage minced
-3 tablespoons lemon juice
-salt and pepper to taste
Saute garlic in 1/4 cup olive oil on low for 10 minutes to infuse and slightly cook garlic. Add garlic, herbs, and salt to remaining oil. You can let the oil sit in dark place for up to a month to continue being infused with the flavor of the herbs or add lemon juice and store in the fridge for a beautiful dressing for up to 7 days.
Slice vegetables length wise so that they are large enough not to fall through the grates of the grill. Cut cauliflower into steaks, or wedges. Leave the broccoli stem intact as well to avoid having small florets from breaking off.
Cover vegetables in Dressing and allow to marinade for 30 minutes while grill is set up.
Eggplant, Carrots, and Cauliflower will take 15-20 minutes on grill, broccoli about 10, and zucchini anywhere from 5-10 minutes. Flip once during cooking process.
Now with all you fall abundance serve up some wild rice, top with roasted veggies and perhaps top with a few sunflower seeds for crunch or a tahini dressing.
Nourish the body, the soul and the Earth! Enjoy