Wild rice has wonderful nutty flavor and hearty texture making it perfect for salads, stuffings, pilaf, and soups.  On the down side, it also takes a long time to cook. The good news is that Trader Joe’s has fully cooked Wild Rice, sold in 1 lb shelf stable packages. It’s ready in two minutes – all you have to do is open and heat. The other thing I like about TJ’s wild rice is that, like so many of their products, there are no artificial ingredients or preservatives. Other brands of precooked rice products have additives, but TJ’s just contains wild rice and water.

For this entree salad, I simply heated the rice to revive the texture (straight out of the bag, it’s a little stiff) and added a few other ready-to-go ingredients. There is a symphony of texture in this dish: the chewiness of the wild rice, the sweet burst of grapes, the crunch of cashews and water chestnuts, and the crisp bite of green onions. Add the chicken or leave it out for a vegetarian version.

Did you know that wild rice isn’t even a rice? It’s actually a marsh grass seed. There are a few species native to North America, the best known from the state of Minnesota where the wild rice is harvested from the cold rivers and lakes. (I find it especially interesting that wild rice harvesting is regulated and must be done the traditional Native America way – from a canoe!)  Wild rice is high in protein and fiber, and like actual rice, wild rice is also gluten-free.

Ingredients

  • 1 (16 oz) pkg fully cooked Wild Rice
  • 2-3 cups pre-cooked Just Chicken (or cook your own, instructions below)
  • 1 1/2 cups red grapes, halved
  • 1 cup roasted cashews, whole or pieces
  • 1 (8 oz) can sliced water chestnuts
  • 2-3 stems green onion, chopped

Dressing:

  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (for a creamier dressing, substitute 1 Tbsp mayonnaise for 1 Tbsp of the oil)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice

Instructions

1.) Open the package of wild rice and put the contents into a large bowl, breaking up the rice. Cover and microwave       for 1 minute. Cool.
2.) To the rice, add chicken, grapes, cashews, water chestnuts, and green onion. Stir to combine.
3.) In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice. Pour over the salad and stir to distribute evenly.

Prep time: 10 minutes, Serves 4

Notes

If cooking your own chicken, drizzle two boneless chicken breasts with 1 Tbsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Sauté over medium-high heat, 2 minutes each side. Lower the heat to medium, cover, and continue to cook until chicken plumps and is cooked through (about 10 minutes). Cool and then cut into bite size pieces.