When I saw a recipe for a colorful rice pilaf with butternut squash, cranberries and pecans on Nancy Buchanan's wonderful blog, A Communal Table, I knew I had to make a variation of it for my Thanksgiving menu. I made some tweaks, including using all wild rice rather than a wild rice mix, which changes the texture and flavor significantly. I also toasted the pecans, adding garlic and soaking the cranberries in red wine vinegar for extra zing. Nancy's dressing, with lemon and orange juices, fresh ginger and spices, provides a shock of flavor.
One great thing about this dish is that it can be made a day in advance and reheated, or just brought to room temperature – a blessing for busy holiday cooks. And in case you haven't noticed, this pilaf is 100% guilt-free. Wild rice (which is actually a grass) is vegan, gluten free, high in protein and fiber, and low in fat. —cathyeats
medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into small cubes
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss the butternut squash with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread the squash on two baking sheets. Roast until tender and starting to brown, about 20 minutes (check earlier if your pieces are very small).
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet. Sauté the onion and garlic for 3-4 minutes.
Place the dried cranberries in a bowl with the warm water and vinegar. Let sit for 10 minutes, then drain.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining olive oil, lemon zest, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, orange juice, lemon juice and fresh ginger.
Place the wild rice and stock in a medium saucepan. Heat to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 40 minutes, or until some of the grains start to split. The rice should still be quite chewy. Drain thoroughly and place in a large bowl.
Add the onions and garlic, cranberries, parsley, pecans and dressing to the wild rice and stir. Gently mix in the roasted squash. Serve warm if possible, or at room temperature.