Wild Rice Salad with Kabocha Squash and Brown Butter Vinaigrette
Let’s face it. Nobody really likes the idea of making (or eating) a salad during the holidays. But how about a salad with alllll the fall mix-ins - you know, the stuff you usually pick out of a salad.
This wild rice salad with kabocha squash and brown butter vinaigrette is kind of like a salad in disguise. Full of healthy produce, like squash, mushrooms, and pomegranates, and my favorite pseudo-grain (that’s actually a grass!): wild rice.
Everything can be made ahead of time in this salad, making it ideal for Thanksgiving, holiday parties, or even (gasp!) a healthy fall meal prep situation.
Wild rice actually isn’t a grain at all - it’s a grass! I love it for its nutty flavor and chewy texture; perfect for prep-ahead salads. Wild rice is high in antioxidants and is a good source of fiber, folate, and magnesium. You can find wild rice at Whole Foods, well-stocked grocery stores, and here.
If you tolerate dairy, quality butter can actually be a healthful food (!). Butter made from milk from grass-cows is a great source of vitamin A and is high in butyric acid, which has been shown to decrease inflammation. Butter sourced from cows that feed on green grass also contains high levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which can potentially provide protection against different types of cancer. Here are a few of my favorite grass-fed butter brands (in order of preference):
If you don’t tolerate dairy, you could always make the dressing with ghee! My favorite brand is this one from Fourth and Heart.
Wild Rice Salad with Kabocha Squash
and Brown Butter Vinaigrette
1 cup wild rice
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock (or water) salt to taste
1/2 large kabocha squash, seeds removed and cubed (see notes)
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
10 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
BROWN BUTTER VINAIGRETTE
1/4 cup unsalted grass-fed butter (see notes)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
3/4 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
1 cup pomegranate seeds (see notes)
First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Cook the rice. Combine the rice and chicken stock (or water) in a pot and bring to a boil. Cover with a tight-fitting lid, reduce heat to low, and cook for 45-50 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes. If there’s extra liquid, drain it.
Meanwhile, roast the kabocha squash. Arrange the kabocha cubes on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes or until beginning to brown, flipping halfway through.
Next, cook the mushrooms. Heat 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil in a cast iron skillet or a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, mushrooms, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the mushrooms are softened, adding a tablespoon of stock or water if the mixture begins to stick to the pan. Set aside.
Make the brown butter vinaigrette. Heat another skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and swirl the pan until it turns a deep golden brown and smells nutty, about 2-3 minutes. Take off the heat and cool slightly. In a small bowl, whisk together the apple cider vinegar, mustard, honey, and salt and pepper. Add in the browned butter and whisk again.
Serve. In a large bowl, mix together the wild rice, roasted squash, mushroom mixture, and brown butter dressing. Season generously with salt and pepper. When ready to eat, garnish with pecans and pomegranate seeds.
Squash options. Sub out the kabocha squash for your favorite: some other good options include butternut squash, delicata, or acorn.
Sensitive to dairy? Try using grass-fed ghee instead of butter (just skip the browning step). It won’t have that same brown butter taste, but it will still be good.
Pomegranate seeds. If you buy a whole pomegranate, this method is my favorite for de-seeding.
Making this salad ahead of time? Keep the pecans and pomegranates separate. When ready to eat, heat up the salad and then garnish with pecans and pomegranate seeds.