Main Dish Wild Rice & Spinach Salad
Numerous studies point to the health benefits of whole grains in one's daily diet.
Diets high in whole grain foods have been shown to significantly lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke. That is just one benefit; also consider that diets high in fiber (such as whole grains) can improve one’s digestive health (reducing constipation) and can help with weight management (whole grains make you feel full for a longer period of time). And those whole grains can help reduce cholesterol levels, lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, and for women of child-bearing age can reduce the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
Whole grains are also a nutritional powerhouse—rich in B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folic acid), magnesium (good for building strong bones) and selenium (important in protecting cells from oxidation—aging).
And there's one more thing: I think they taste good!
In an effort to prepare healthful and nourishing meals for my family, I have been striving to introduce more whole grain and fiber-rich foods into our daily meals. This salad is wonderfully filling and tasty. I find it especially pleasant to have a whole meal salad when the weather becomes hot and humid. Most of the preparation (cooking the rices) can be done in the evening before your meal or early in the morning before temperatures soar.
Note that cooking times will vary based on the method used for cooking/preparing the wild and brown rices.
Ingredients for the Salad
- 1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed
- 3 cups cooked wild rice
- 2 cups cooked brown rice
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
- 1/4 cup sliced green onions
- 4 slices turkey bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
- 1 cup smoked turkey breast from the deli, diced
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- Squeeze as much water as possible from the thawed spinach.
- Mix the spinach and all remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
- Pour the dressing over the salad. Toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
Ingredients for the Salad Dressing
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tsp. honey
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
How to Cook Wild Rice
There are several methods available to cook wild rice--some cookbooks suggest using the microwave, but I feel this is a rather unreliable method since microwaves vary greatly. You may either steam or bake your wild rice, as follows:
To steam wild rice:
- In a medium sauce pan with a tight-fitting lid, bring 1 cup wild rice, 3 cups water, and 1/2 tsp. salt to a boil.
- Cover, reduce the heat to maintain a steady but low simmer, and cook until the rice is tender and the kernels pop open, 45 to 60 minutes.
- Uncover the rice and fluff it with a fork.
- Simmer 5 additional minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Drain off any excess liquid, if necessary.
To bake wild rice (my preferred method):
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Combine 1 cup wild rice with 2 cups boiling water or broth and salt to taste in a 2-quart casserole with a tight fitting lid.
- Cover and bake in oven for 1 hour.
- Check the wild rice. Add more water or broth, if needed, and fluff the rice with a fork.
- Continue baking until the rice is tender and still moist, about 30 minutes.
How to Cook Brown Rice
The methods used to cook brown rice are very similar to those for wild rice. These two methods have worked the best for me:
To steam brown rice:
- Add 1 cup of uncooked brown rice and 2 1/2 cups water to a large pan with a tight-fitting lid.
- Cook the rice on your coolest burner, and making sure the rice is simmering at the lowest possible simmer.
- Brown rice usually requires 40 to 50 minutes of cooking, but start checking it after 30 minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn.
- This will yield about 3 cups cooked brown rice.
To bake brown rice:
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Place 1 ½ cups brown rice in an 8-inch square glass baking dish.
- Bring 2 ½ cups water, 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, and 1 tsp. salt just to a boil in a kettle or covered saucepan. Once the water boils, pour it over the rice, stir to combine, and cover the dish tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 1 hour.
- After 1 hour, remove cover and fluff the rice with a fork.
Other Possible Additions or Substitutions of Ingredients
- Cashews or toasted walnuts in place of almonds.
- Omit the bacon and turkey and substitute baked tofu or tempeh to make this a vegetarian meal.
- Add any of the following: diced avocado, cooked garbanzo beans, oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, snap peas, or diced red bell pepper.