March 17, 2011

Wild Rice with Fruit and Pecans + Honey-Orange Winter Squash

When I decided to make Pork Medallions with Apples and Sage, I knew I'd need some side dishes to go with it.   I'd  made a Wild Rice Pilaf awhile back, and Juli and I had both really liked that, so I decided I'd make up some wild rice to serve with the pork dish, and that as with the pilaf, I'd add some fruit to the wild rice, both to jazz it up and to make it a better companion dish to the pork and apples.

I also wanted a vegetable dish to go with the main course and the rice.  Considering options, I decided to go with something fairly sweet, to stick with the themes of the rest of the meal, and that led me to remember we still had two carnival squash left from the late autumn farmer's markets. 

From there, the rest of the decisions I needed to make were pretty quick and easy.  Cooking wild rice in chicken broth gives it both a more mellow and a more savory flavor, and rosemary and thyme were both good choices of seasoning.  In fact, we'd bought a rosemary plant earlier that same day, so I could use a sprig fresh off the plant. 

Nuts complement the somewhat nutty flavor and texture of the wild rice, so I decided the dish could do with some toasted pecans.  Chopped, dried cranberries and cherries would supply the fruit component of the dish, and round out the flavor palate with some sweetness and some tartness.

Since I was already cooking two other dishes at the same time, I decided I'd bake the squash in the oven, which would require very little attention.  A quick whack with my Wusthof Cleaver (the newest addition to my cutlery collection) and a few seconds scooping out seeds and strings was all it took to get the squash ready to cook.   I'd decided to flavor it with a mix of sweet and savory seasonings, and eventually decided on honey, soy sauce, orange zest, a bit of cinnamon and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

These two side dishes and the main pork dish went together very well.   The wild rice and the squash made for a particularly delightful combination, and gave me and Juli some ideas for a future dish.  All in all, this was a very nice meal, and the side dishes did their part to make that so.

Wild Rice with Fruit and Pecans

yield = 4 servings

2        cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2     cup water
3        sprigs fresh thyme
1        sprig fresh rosemary
2        bay leaves
1        cup wild rice
1/2     cup toasted pecans
1/4     cup dried cherries, chopped
1/4     cup dried cranberries, chopped

Add the broth, water, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add the wild rice, cover and reduce heat to low.  Simmer until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid (about 30 minutes), then stir in the pecans and chopped, dried fruit and continue to cook uncovered until excess liquid has been absorbed or cooked off (another 10-15 minutes), stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

Honey-Orange Winter Squash

yield = 2 servings

1     medium to large-size winter squash
       (carnival, acorn or kuri are all good choices)
       salt and pepper to taste
2     tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3     tablespoons honey
2     tablespoons soy sauce
1     tablespoon orange zest
1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Halve the squash, scoop out the seeds and strings and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.  

Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil.  Brush the oil on the foil and on the cut edge of the squash.   Place the squash on the baking sheet, cut side down, and cook 30 minutes.  

While the squash is cooking, combine honey, soy sauce, orange zest and cinnamon in a small bowl.  After the squash has cooked 30 minutes, turn the squash cut-side up and thoroughly brush the cut edge and inside of both squash halves with the honey mixture.  

Return squash to oven and cook another 10-15 minutes or until the squash is fully-cooked (when a skewer or knife tip pressed lightly into the squash meets no resistance).  Remove from oven, let cool 5 minutes, then serve by scooping the cooked squash out of the rind.

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