Wild Rice with Kuri Squash and Pomegranate
November is here and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. It’s always been my favorite holiday: lots of food, good cheer, family and friends - without the stress of buying and wrapping gifts.
Since food is the focal point of Thanksgiving, it presented a significant challenge once I had changed to a plant-based diet. At my first plant-based Thanksgiving, I ate salad and a piece of bread. The second year I got a little more savvy and brought my own food (a squash soup and a kale salad that nobody else ate). My family has been so much more adaptable over the past few years and they have even tried some of the crazy things that I bring to the table without making too much of a fuss.
I have several fall favorites for Thanksgiving, including this Tempeh Stuffing, Harvest Squash with Millet and Cranberries, and Cauliflower Sweet Potato Soup. They are all crowd-pleasers and easy to whip up for your feast (whether you are hosting or attending). This year, I’m going to bring this new beauty to the table: Wild Rice with Kuri Squash and Pomegranate.
Let’s start with a little education before we get to the recipe:
Kuri squash is new to me. After tasting it, I feel like I’ve been missing out for too long! Kuri is a thin-skinned, orange squash that resembles a pumpkin. When it comes to squash, darker color means more carotenes, which have been shown to protect the body against certain types of cancer (Murray, M. 2005). Kuri squash has a very deep color and is really delicious! Because of its thin skin, there’s no need to peel it, which is a serious win in my book. If you can get your hands on one, it’s perfect for this recipe. If you can’t, an acorn squash would be a lovely substitution.
Wild rice is considered an aquatic grain. It is a bit heartier than both the white and brown varieties of rice. The naturally nutty flavor of wild rice pairs well with the sweetness of the squash and the tart pop of the pomegranate. You will need a little extra cooking time to prepare wild rice, but I think it’s worth it. Note: even when cooked perfectly, wild rice will have a bit of a chew to it. This is natural, and will lend a lovely textural element to the dish!
Let’s get cooking and make Thanksgiving (or any day of the week) a little more delicious, shall we? While this may seem complicated, it can all be made in under an hour with minimal prep. This could even be made the day before and reheated to save time.
Wild Rice with Kuri Squash and Pomegranate
Serves 4 as a side
1 small/med kuri squash, cubed (~5 cups)
2 TBSP EVOO
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Pinch of salt & pepper
1 c wild rice, rinsed well
3 c vegetable broth or water
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 TBSP coconut oil
¼ c pomegranate seeds
¼ c fresh parsley, chopped
3 TBSP EVOO
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
Pinch of salt & black pepper
1 TBSP filtered water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Toss cubed squash with EVOO, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and lay flat on baking sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes until fork tender.
Meanwhile, add rinsed rice and broth (or water) to a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, then cover and simmer 45-50 minutes. Turn off heat and leave covered an additional 10 minutes.
Saute onion in skillet with 1 TBSP coconut oil until translucent. Set aside.
Remove seeds (arils) from pomegranate. The best method I have found is to cut the pomegranate into quarters and submerge sections in a large bowl of water. While holding a section, pry seeds out of skin. The white parts (pith) will float to the top and seeds will sink to the bottom. The water keeps everything contained - other methods will likely have you wiping down the kitchen walls and scrubbing pomegranate juice stains off your shirt! (I may be speaking from experience.) After removing seeds, you will have extras that you could pack as a nutritious snack or toss into smoothies.
Dressing: add EVOO, balsamic vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and water to a jar. Add cover and shake to combine.
To assemble: add squash, onions, pomegranate seeds, chopped parsley, and dressing to the pot with wild rice and stir to combine. Serves 2 as a meal or 4 as a side dish. Enjoy!
Murray, M. (2005) The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, NY: Atria Books.