I first made this salad out of Food and Wine 3 years ago, and I have faithfully returned to it every 6 months or so since then. Probably because it uses some of my very favorite ingredients - wild rice, chickpeas, raisins, sliced almonds, and it introduced me to this wonderful curry-flavored dressing, sweetened with honey, and given a little kick by a generous pinch of cayenne.
I still remember the article this recipe came from too - it was about a couple that had moved to Texas to escape city life, and all the recipes in the article looked wonderful. There were two other grain salad recipes, that are still on my to-try list.
Wild rice is such a treat - it's chewy and light, with an earthy taste that is a perfect base for all sorts of wonderful additions - dried fruits, nuts and seeds, smoked meats, and flavorful dressings. This particular salad fits in beautifully at the fall table, with it's muted colors and warm flavors. The original recipe calls for ham, but offers sliced almonds as an alternative, which I always use, because the salad stays longer in the fridge that way, and I always have some sliced almonds laying around.
I had this salad for lunch all week long, which my Butternut Squash Soup, and they made quite a pair for the first chilly week of fall, here in North Carolina. This salad is open for all sorts of happy experimentation - cranberries, whole smoked almonds, or even some roasted shallots... really, you could do anything with it your little heart desires. The dressing is versatile and delicious, so ladies and gents, get out your apron and get busy.
Wild Rice Salad with Chickpeas and Almonds
Food and Wine, June 2003
1 ½ cups wild rice (10 ounces)
2 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 19-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas)
¼ lb. smoked ham, diced (optional)
1 large handful sliced almonds
4 small scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
¼ cup golden raisins (I used currants this time around)
Freshly ground pepper
Hot sauce (Cholula - is there any other brand worth using?)
Fill a large saucepan three-quarters full of water and bring to a boil. Add the wild rice and 1 tablespoon of salt and simmer over moderate heat until the rice is tender and most of the grains have just split, 50 minutes. Drain and rinse the rice under cold water, then drain again.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, honey, curry powder, cumin and cayenne. Add the olive oil and whisk until combined. Toss in the chickpeas, ham, scallions, raisins and wild rice. Season the salad with salt, pepper and hot sauce, transfer to a bowl and serve.