Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Weird Recipe Wednesday: Pumpkin Wild Rice Salad

Weird Recipe Wednesday: Because some recipes are so weird I just HAVE to try them.  My curiosity always gets the better of me.

This warm autumn salad is packed with fall flavors.  Loaded with healthy ingredients this cozy side boasts a delicate balance between sweet and savory.  Caramelized onions and roasted cauliflower blend with the nuttiness of wild rice.  Sweet, delicate pumpkin notes mingle with crisp apples, soft raisins and a subtle hint of warm cinnamon.

This week's weird factor comes from the use of finely chopped cauliflower.  Cooked cauliflower is oftentimes used as a low carb substitute for potatoes.  Here we use a mixture raw and roasted cauliflower for a texture similar to couscous or rice.  I've been experimenting with finely chopped cauliflower in some other recipes and decided to use it here in addition to the wild rice.

Pulsing the florets in a food processor yields a fluffy, white heap similar to couscous.  The first time around I made this salad with raw cauliflower and thought it had a bit too much texture.  I tried it again, this time roasting the cauliflower under the broiler.  Roasting cauliflower softens both the texture and flavor, giving it nutty undertones and an almost rice-like consistency.

 After stirring the roasted cauliflower into the pumpkin and wild rice mixture, I decided the salad needed a little more body.  In the end I found a combination of raw and roasted cauliflower added just the right touch to balance the medley of other textures in this intriguing side.

 Fresh apples provide a satisfying crunch to the chewy wild rice and cauliflower base studded with tender onions, soft raisins and crunchy toasted pecans.  With all the flavors of fall tucked inside each bowl this savory-sweet side puts a whole new spin on salad.

Pumpkin Wild Rice Salad
inspired by Healthy Happy Life

1 tsp olive oil, divided
1/2 medium sweet onion, chopped (about 2/3 cup)
3 cups very finely chopped cauliflower*, divided
1 cup cooked wild rice
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp agave nectar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 medium crisp apple, chopped
2 Tbsp raisins
2 Tbsp chopped toasted pecans, optional

* The easiest (and least messy) way to finely chop cauliflower is to place cauliflower florets in a food processor and pulse 4 to 5 times.

* In a small skillet heat 1/2 tsp olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and saute until golden and caramelized, 10-12 minutes.
* Meanwhile, combine 2 cups finely chopped cauliflower with remaining 1/2 tsp olive oil.  Spread onto a greased baking sheet and broil 5-6 minutes or until edges are just beginning to brown; set aside.
* In a large microwave-safe bowl combine wild rice, pumpkin, apple cider vinegar, agave, salt, pepper and cinnamon. Warm in microwave 1-2 minutes or until heated through. Stir in caramelized onions, roasted cauliflower, remaining 1 cup raw cauliflower, apples and raisins.  Sprinkle with toasted pecans, if desired. Serve warm.*

*Also delicious as a cold salad. Leftovers are best served cold as reheating causes the apples to become too soft.

Food for Thought: "How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these." -George Washington Carver

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