TWENTY. This is my twentieth post of this blog!! When I started late last year with the humble resolution to write at least twice per month, I couldn’t have imagined how much I would enjoy this project. Not only am I floored that I want to write more than expected, but there are actually those of you out there who are reading this! Yes, my numbers are tiny compared to a well-established blogger, but I am in awe that I have 48 followers on WordPress, 16 on Facebook, and 38 on Instagram! Thank you, thank you to all of you who are reading and supporting me – you have no idea how much it means to me!
Recently, an Australian man commented that he refused to eat meat pie in New York City because he preferred to eat food where it was actually from. He wanted to eat Thai food in Thailand and Chinese food in China. It got me thinking a lot about the globalization of food, because food is so deeply tied to the agricultural products of a region and, of course, its culture. On the one hand, I feel blessed to be able to experience such a variety of foods without leaving my city. It allows me to learn more about the world and try new foods. On the other hand, the globalization of food has meant that we introduce non-native plants into new areas for production or ship products long distances so that we can try something “exotic”, affecting the people in the region of origin in ways both good and bad.
But what is American food from America? Yes, we have fast food and Thanksgiving dinners, but the majority of the food that permeates our society is imported from our various immigrant communities. And just until recent years, when I joined a Community-Supported Agriculture community and later started a garden of my own, I felt pretty out of touch with agricultural products and when they grow, given that I can walk into a supermarket and buy almost anything year-round these days. But what did those living in North America eat before the globalization of food?
Thinking about all of this and of the restaurants visited in Quebec City like Tournebroche Bistro and Chez Boulay, which use only local products, I decided to create my own “Americana bowl” filled with veggies and fruit that are native to North America. Here’s my selection:
- Wild rice: With varieties native to the Great Lakes region, Canada, Texas, and Florida, it’s not actually “rice” but an edible type of grass harvested from lakes. Bonus that it’s a whole grain, high in protein, and gluten-free.
- Corn: It is believed that the first corn was domesticated in Mexico.
- Great Northern Beans: The name says it all. The “common bean” originated in the Americas and there are many varieties, of which one is the Great Northern.
- Tomatoes: They are also believed to have roots in Mexico, becoming a global phenomenon after the Spanish brought them over to Europe.
- Avocado: Mexico, again!
- Blueberries: Native to North America, especially the northern US and Canada
- Maple syrup: The indigenous peoples of the US and Canada tapped maple trees for syrup; today 70% of the world’s production comes from Quebec province in Canada.
- Pecans: Native to southern US and Mexico.
- Spinach: Actually has nothing to do with the Americas, but you have to eat all this goodness on top of something right?
This is my first recipe that really feels like my own. While I’ve constructed my other recipes based on experience and a variety of sources, I was generally aiming to make a well-established food. This recipe isn’t a common food or connected to a story, as much as a celebration of plants from this region of the world.
Have you ever eaten a meal that makes your body feel happy and healthy? Not the kind of buzz you feel with a sugar rush, but nourished? That’s what this salad bowl is like every time I eat it. The sweet fruit mixes with the nutty flavors of pecans and wild rice, all topped off with creamy avocado. As a bonus, the bowl requires pretty minimal cooking other than the rice, making it less time-intensive than many other salads I’ve tried.
Start with the rice. Cook according to instructions on the package. I recommend using a rice cooker if you have one, and soaking the rice overnight or for a few hours will also cut down on cooking time. Wild rice is done when the grains start to split open and it softens a bit. It can take about an hour in the rice cooker, but this is definitely a “set it and forget it” step.
Make the dressing. Toast the pecans – I prefer the stovetop method to avoid burning them, as you can burn your nuts quickly if you’re not paying attention! I went for a chunkier dressing, with small pieces of nuts still in the vinaigrette, but that’s entirely up to your preference.
When you’re ready to eat, chop and measure the ingredients. Throw it all together in a bowl and voila! You’re done.
Cornucopia Americana Salad Bowl
15 minutes prep + 1 hour for rice to cook. 4 servings
- 1 cup wild rice, uncooked
- 2 1/3 cups vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons shallot, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Salad (4 servings)
- 8 cups leafy greens, loosely packed*
- 3 cups wild rice, cooked
- 15.5 ounces Great Northern Beans (1 can)
- 15.5 ounces yellow corn (1 can)
- 15.5 ounces blueberries (1 pint)
- 4 tomatoes, chopped
- 2 avocados, chopped
- 1/3 cup pecan-maple vinaigrette
*I used spinach here but other mild greens such as iceberg lettuce, romaine, or kale would work.
- Rice cooker (optional) or pot
- Mortar & pestle (optional)
- Make the wild rice. Combine the wild rice with vegetable broth in a rice cooker or medium pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 45-60 minutes. After the 40 minute mark, watch closely to avoid burning. Add more liquid if needed. Remove from heat and let stand covered for 10 minutes or until water is absorbed.
- Make the vinaigrette. Toast the pecans on high heat on the stovetop in a small pan for no more than 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until slightly browned but not burnt. Let cool. Whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, shallots, mustard, and black pepper in a small bowl. Chop the pecans to your desired size and fold into the vinaigrette. A mortar and pestle is useful if you have one.
- Assemble salad in a large bowl. Dress with vinaigrette before eating. Serve and eat immediately.