Minnesota Wild Rice Heritage and a Flavor Packed Salad

We live in Los Angeles, but venture back to my home state of Minnesota and its north country any chance we get.  Our close friends have a home in Ely, MN and we love to enjoy the unspoiled lakes and hikes in the woods of this gorgeous area.  We even stream WELY  94.5 “End of the Road Radio” back in California.  Because of this connection, and my love of food preparation, I’m led to learn more about the local foods and encourage others to also learn more about how their food is grown. Wild rice and Minnesota go together. There are deep ties to the original seeds and plants leading to sustenance of the people here.  It is sacred to the Native Americans. Their first solid food eaten and also the last food eaten before they leave this earth. This Ted Talk by Winona Laduke teaches that wild rice and corn are a large part of the Northern culture, history, stories and relationships that tie us all together.  Protection of the clean water is crucial to survival of the wild rice tradition as explained here.10422268_10206050048949245_6199108002824908738_n ely lake

“Manomin”, one of the names for wild rice, means gift from the creator Himself.  It is Minnesota’s state grain, is actually an aquatic grass. It is grown in cold rivers and lakes and harvested in the traditional Native American way with a canoe a pole for power and two rice beater sticks “Knockers”.  Midwest Living magazine documented the Ojibwe harvest here.

When I was a kid growing up in Southern Minnesota our traditional Christmas meal included mom’s signature wild rice side dish which was nutty and toothsome served alongside a thick slice of prime rib. It grew to be something I craved not knowing the rich history and abundant nutrition of this Minnesota treasured grain (grass).

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You can even put wild rice in your pancake batter for an interesting twist and added nutrients. Wild rice is high in protein and the amino acid lycine, gluten free, lots of fiber.  A good source of potassium, iron, maganese and vitamin B-6.

If you have ever visited the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, you know about the fabulous supermarkets Lunds and Byerly’s.  The stores are know for their Signature Creamy Wild Rice Soup laced with sherry. This recipe is a family favorite and total comfort food.  After my son visited the orthodontist to get his braces tightened, he was promised a steamy cup of this soup for his pain.

But now there’s a new favorite in town.  Ever since my friend, Amanda Paa, from St. Paul created her new cookbook from the Minnesota Historical Society Press, Smitten with Squash, we have a new absolute favorite wild rice recipe.  It’s loaded with ingredients from Minnesota.  Wild rice, pure maple syrup, and squash. Every single recipe in this book is outstanding and unique and this Wild Rice Butternut Squash Salad recipe is like no other.

DSC_0036 wild rice salad 1

Minnesota Wild Rice and Butternut Squash Salad with Maple-Balsamic Vinaigrette

by Amanda Paa, Smitten with Squash


1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil or sunflower oil
2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 clove garlic, minced
Prepare dressing by pureeing all ingredient with an immersion blender or by vigorously whisking ingredients together.
2 1/2 c. peeled and cubed butternut squash
1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
sea salt
black pepper
2 1/2 c. thinly sliced kale (lightly massaged) or spinach
1/2 c. thinly sliced leeks, both white and green parts
1/2 c. dried cherries (or dried cranberries)
1/4 c. thinly sliced fresh basil
3 c. cooked warm wild rice
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss squash with olive oil, salt and pepper.  spread onto a baking sheet and roast for about 25 min., stirring once, until fork tender. In a large bowl, combine kale (or spinach) leeks, cherries and basil. Stir in warm rice and squash so that kale (or spinach) wilts slightly from the heat.Stir dressing into salad; taste and adjust salt level if needed.  Serve at room temperature.

DSC_0009 ingredients

DSC_0018 cut squash

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More of Amanda’s fabulous healthy recipes may be found at Heartbeet Kitchen

69 thoughts on “Minnesota Wild Rice Heritage and a Flavor Packed Salad

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