I got married on an unusually warm autumn day in Upstate New York. The downpours from the previous day had subsided overnight, and we woke to a dewy fall morning - the only reminder of rain being the patchwork clouds and damp leaves beneath our feet.
Despite bundles of nerves and anxiety as we got ready that morning, everything went splendidly (well, minus a slight mishap with the zipper on the dress - oh, and a ringbearer who decided to take his tux for a spin down a beautiful, but very muddy, rolling hill...).
The stress of work, planning a wedding, and getting ready to spend our lives together was subsiding, and we were beginning to settle into married life. Except one tiny problem. My experience with cooking consisted primarily of using ingredients such as meat, cheese (lots of cheese) and pasta. And my new husband.... was a 23 year veteran vegan. So, in an effort to cater to his palate, expand my repository of healthy and delicious recipes, and to make a vegan lifestyle less intimidating, I began researching, cooking, and logging my recipes. (Sidenote, we are long since divorced, and therefore my repository of recipes is not exclusively vegan).
This dish was discovered during a trip to Washington D.C. It was served at the Mitsitam Cafe, located at the National Museum of the American Indian. I was able to try it home, thanks to a cookbook they had available for purchase. This salad marries (pun intended) the best of fall flavors, and makes a great side dish for sandwiches or veggie burgers (or regular burgers, if you are a meat lover). It's also a great dish to pass! Taste buds will not be disappointed.
Apple Cider Vinaigrette
6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. honey
3/4 c. canola oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
6 c. homemade vegetable stock (or substitute with store bought stock)
1 1/2 c. wild rice
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 2-inch matchsticks
3 tbsp. dried cranberries
1 plum (Roma) tomato, finely diced
4 to 5 scallions, including some green parts, finely chopped
1/2 c. pine nuts, toasted and cooled
1/4 c. unsalted raw pumpkin seeds, toasted and cooled
3 bunches watercress, stemmed
For the vinaigrette: in a small bowl, combine all the ingredients and whisk to blend. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 10 days.
For the salad: In a large saucepan, combine the stock and wild rice. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until tender, 45 to 55 minutes. Spread the rice on baking sheet and let cool.
Scrape the rice into a large bowl and add the carrot, dried cranberries, tomato, scallions, pine nuts, and pumpkin seeds. Toss to mix. Add 1/2 c. vinaigrette and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Salad may be served chilled or brought up to room temperature. To serve, divide the watercress among salad plates and top with the wild rice salad.