Recently, I found myself poring over the fantastic volume Hungry for Wisconsin: A Tasty Guide for Travelers. The reason why I was looking through this book is this: I was seeking out unusual regional specialties or bakeries that I simply needed to visit. What can I say? I love armchair food travel.
One thing caught my eye right away, as in on page 2: a story about wild rice in Wisconsin. As it turns out, wild rice is a pretty big deal in what many would consider the Dairy State. It grows "freely in cool, northern rivers, shallow lakes, and other wetlands", and commands a high price, because the harvest is done by hand. This love and care gives it a unique, nutty flavor that Uncle Ben could only dream of attaining.
For generations, the Native Americans of the area have harvested rice in a ritual that brings together the whole family. Unfortunately, this tradition seems to have been dying in recent years.
But at least a few brave Wild Rice soldiers want to bring back the tradition. And as part of their dedication to bringing back the wild rice harvest, the fine people of Bear Clan Wild Rice do various events to raise awareness.
At these events, they hand out recipes for wild rice, including this unusual one, which is in the book and caught my attention right away: Wild Rice Dessert Topping. At first it struck me as an odd recipe, but when I thought about it further, it came to me sort of like this: I like rice. I like dessert. I think rice pudding is great, but why should it have all the fun?
And so I gave it a try. If you have wild rice on hand, the recipe is a snap. Getting used to the flavor might involve a learning curve--it's definitely different. Earthy, and nutty, sort of granola-esque but with that distinct rice flavor, it works best with fairly neutral flavored desserts--I tried it on top of vanilla ice cream. It's a fascinating flavor, and once I got past the "oh! weird!" aspect of it, I found it highly enjoyable.
Wild Rice Dessert Topping (Printable recipe here!)
- 1 cup cooked wild rice
- 1/2 cup brown sugar or maple sugar
- 1/2 cup dried cherries (original recipe suggests dried cranberries or raisins)
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (original recipe calls for pecans)