- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 21, 2003

As someone who loves to cook with the seasons, I always put apples, pears, nuts and winter squash on my list of fall harvest foods to buy, but often I overlook wild rice.

This annual aquatic grass drops its sweet, chewy seeds during late summer or early fall, depending on the part of the country it’s grown in. Newly packaged wild rice has a slightly grassy and herbal flavor that’s incomparable. If you want this taste experience, you may have to shop small mail-order companies. Usually, it’s sold as hand-harvested, or traditional, wild rice.

Fortunately, whatever wild rice you find in your supermarket will still be a treat. You can choose from a number of varieties according available budget and time.

To many, the best quality is found in the hand-harvested wild rice that is gathered by beating mature plant seeds into a canoe. Because of the labor involved, this is often the most expensive form. It’s also long-cooking — up to one hour. Cultivated or paddy-milled wild rice is commercially grown, dried and milled.

Cultivated rice takes slightly less time — about 50 minutes — to cook until tender. Quick-cook wild rice has been precooked and dehydrated. This process reduces cooking time to anywhere from three to 10 minutes, depending on the brand.

I recommend using hand-harvested wild rice or a good-quality cultivated rice for a side dish or soup in which the rice texture and quality are important, but when using rice as an ingredient in a casserole or bread, use whatever is most convenient.

One of my favorite ways to use wild rice is in a pancake batter. The combination of wild rice and maple syrup is incredibly good. Use quick-cook wild rice, since the quality of the rice isn’t as important as the time savings.

Wild rice pancakes with apple-maple topping

Salt

½ cup quick-cook wild rice

3/4 cup flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 egg

1 to 2 tablespoons additional butter

Apple-maple topping (recipe follows)

Bring ½ cup water and ¼ teaspoon salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir in the wild rice. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 5 to 10 minutes or until water is absorbed. Set aside. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and ¼ teaspoon salt in a bowl. Beat together the milk, 2 tablespoons melted butter and egg in a small bowl. Stir milk mixture into the flour, and stir briefly to blend. Stir in the wild rice. Do not beat.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet. Form pancakes 3 to 4 inches in diameter. Cook pancakes until browned around the edges and golden on the bottom; flip over and cook the second side. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve topped with apple-maple topping. Makes 6 to 8 pancakes. Makes 2 servings.

APPLE-MAPLE TOPPING:

1 tablespoon butter

1 apple, peeled, cored, seeded and diced

½ cup maple syrup

½ cup mixed dried cranberries and walnuts or mixed nuts

Melt butter in a small skillet. Add apple and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add maple syrup and mixed cranberries and walnuts. Heat through.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES INTERNATIONAL

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