Crunchy Wild Rice Salad with Rosemary-Maple Vinaigrette

Wild Rice Salad Rosemary Maple Dressing We’re finally starting to thaw out here in the Northeast and the warm-up couldn’t have arrived at a better time. I was literally about to lose my mind to cabin fever since my doctor has prohibited me from taking the baby out for walks when it’s below freezing. That means, over the course of his first two months, Baby Ice has been on a sum total of ONE walk his entire life. That’s pretty bleak.

Now that it’s regularly above 32-degrees, I’ve been bundling him up and hitting the mean suburban streets with my two-month-old and my two-year-old in tow. My toddler gets a real kick out of splashing in muddy pothole puddles while I get a real kick out of breathing fresh air. The baby? He’s pretty much the happiest baby on any block so he’s just psyched to be part of the party.

In any event, because it’s finally starting to feel livable in the Northern Corridor, I decided to forgo making something warm and cozy for this month’s Secret Recipe Club. I was assigned Join Us Pull Up a Chair, which is helmed by the lovely Heather (also a mom to young kids), and I came across her delicious-looking Wild Rice & Butternut Squash Salad. This crunchy medley reminds me of my mom’s Wild Rice & Montrachet Salad, which has been a family (and catering business) staple for decades.

Even though I was equally tempted by Heather’s Chicken with Artichokes and Lemon and this Italian Meatball Soup, I knew I had landed on a winner when I took one look at the dressing’s ingredients. What’s not to love about Rosemary, Balsamic and Maple Syrup? This salad is absolutely outstanding and it’s virtually seasonless in the sense that you could serve it at a summer picnic or paired with pork tenderloin in the dead of winter. I made a few tweaks – namely swapping out kale in favor of spinach and adding a crumble of salty almonds. In the end, my mom even said it might just be better than her own rendition, which is pretty much her highest praise.

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Crunchy Wild Rice Salad with Rosemary-Maple Dressing
Serves 6 as a side

Ingredients for the Salad:
3 cups cooked wild rice, warm (Avoid quick-cooking wild rice; I recommend Lundberg Organic Wild Rice, 8 Ounce) – $5.11
2½ cups peeled and chopped butternut squash – $2.29
1½ Tablespoons olive oil – stock
Salt & freshly ground pepper – stock
2½ cups thinly sliced baby spinach – $2.49
¾-cup dried cranberries – $2.99
½-cup roasted/salted almonds, roughly chopped – $5.29
¼-cup thinly sliced fresh basil – $1.99

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil – stock
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup – stock
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar – stock
½-teaspoon sea salt – stock
½-teaspoon black pepper – stock
½-Tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary – $1.99
1 garlic clove, minced finely or pressed – stock
Grand total assuming well-stocked kitchen: $22.15
Cost per serving: $3.69

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. On the stove top, cook the wild rice in chicken broth/stock according to package directions. Lundberg wild rice takes roughly 45 minutes to cook. Season the rice with a pinch of salt.

3. In a medium bowl, toss the chopped butternut squash with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread in one layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 20-25 minutes until the squash is fork tender.

4. While the squash is roasting, combine all the dressing ingredients and whisk vigorously. Set aside.

5. In a large bowl, combine the spinach, cranberries, almonds, squash and basil. Allow the rice to cool to warm then combine with the remaining salad ingredients. Toss with the dressing and serve at room temperature.

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