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When I saw a recipe for a colorful rice pilaf with butternut squash, cranberries and pecans on A Communal Table, [2] I knew it was destined for my Thanksgiving menu. When I made a batch for my pre-Thanksgiving run-through, I discovered that it’s even better than I had hoped, garnering a lot of “wows” from my trusty tasters.

I made a few tweaks, most importantly using all wild rice rather than a wild rice mix, which has just a bit of wild rice, and generally not even the real thing at that. For truly wild rice, look for the stuff harvested by hand from lakes in Minnesota and Canada. It’s a big cut above the cultivated variety (which may also be produced in Minnesota, so the state isn’t the only criteria here.)

The dressing used here is a revelation, and I give all the credit to A Communal Table. With lemon and orange juices, fresh ginger and spices, it provides a shock of flavor. I think I’ll be finding many other uses for it.

And in case you haven’t noticed, this pilaf is 100% guilt-free. Wild rice (which is actually a grass) is vegan, gluten free, high in protein and fiber, and low in fat. So it’s an ideal recipe for my Healthy Thanksgiving Challenge [3].

I prefer this served as a warm pilaf, although it also makes a delicious salad if you want to prepare it in advance (be sure to bring it to at least room temperature before serving).

Wild Rice Pilaf with Butternut Squash, Cranberries and Pecans

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into small cubes
2 cups wild rice, rinsed
6 cups vegetable stock (or half water, half stock)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dried cranberries
¼ cup warm water
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional but good!)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the butternut squash with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread the squash on two baking sheets. Roast until tender and starting to brown, about 20 minutes (check earlier if your pieces are very small).

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet. Sauté the onion and garlic for 3-4 minutes.

Place the dried cranberries in a bowl with the warm water and vinegar. Let sit for 10 minutes, then drain.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining olive oil, lemon zest, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, orange juice, lemon juice and fresh ginger.

Place the wild rice and stock in a medium saucepan. Heat to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 40 minutes, or until some of the grains start to split. The rice should still be quite chewy. Drain thoroughly and place in a large bowl.

Add the onions and garlic, cranberries, parsley, pecans and dressing to the wild rice and stir. Gently mix in the roasted squash. Serve warm if possible, or at room temperature.

Serves 8


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