Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Snacking State-by-State: Minnesota II - Oh what you can do with wild rice!

Some of Minnesota's signature official foods are native foods - wild rice, morels.  Minnesota's Native American communities have been using these ingredients for millenia, and are creating recipes with them today.

Official Name: State of Minnesota
State Nicknames: The Gopher State; The Land of 10,000 Lakes; North Star State
Admission to the US: May 11, 1858 (#32)
Capital: St. Paul (2nd largest)
Other Important Cities: Minneapolis (largest); Duluth (4th largest); St. Cloud (8th largest)
 Midwest; Great Lakes; West North Central (US Census)
RAFT NationsWild RiceBison
Bordered by:
 Manitoba & Ontario (Canada) (north); Lake Superior (northeast); Wisconsin (east); Iowa (south); North & South Dakota (west)
Official State Foods and Edible Things: milk (drink); walleye (fish); honeycrisp apple (fruit); Northern wild rice (grain); blueberry muffin (muffin); morel (mushroom)
Some Famous & Typical Foods: Eastern and Northern European - especially Scandinavian (Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, etc) - foods, especially lutefisk; Native American (Dakota, Ojibwe/Chippewa, etc) food traditions; dairy products

Minnesota has many bands of Native peoples, primarily Dakota and Chippewa/Ojibwe.  The last part is not a typo - the Chippewa are the Ojibwe, just with a differently pronounced name.  It is not difficult to find Native American recipes from the Upper Midwest.  Take the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, who sell wild rice at the Nett Lake Wild Rice website, harvested "the traditional way": two persons in a canoe. One person uses a long pole to push the canoe slowly through the rice beds. The other person, seated in front of the poler, uses a pair of smoothly-carved “knocking sticks” to pull the rice stalks toward the canoe and gently knock loose the ripened grains of rice. This technique ensures that only ripe grains fall into the canoe while unripe grains can continue to ripen for later harvest. [Bois Forte Band 2011]
I attempted two recipes from the Bois Forte Band's Nett Lake website, unfortunately not with their own brand of wild rice.  One recipe incorporates wild rice into one of the most common Native American foods in the US - frybread (that post goes up soon).  The other is a side dish incorporating another native Minnesota food, the mushroom.  In this case, I went all out and used something truly Minnesotan: the morel.

The recipe: Morel Mushroom Wild Rice (adapted from the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa)

For this pilaf you will need the following:

* wild rice (it's easy to find wild rice pilaf in the supermarket.  It's much more difficult to find bags of just wild rice.  I had to go to Trader Joe's for this.  A bag will run about $5.  Note: for this recipe you will need to prepare the wild rice first.  Follow the directions on the bag or at the Nett Lake recipe website)
* mushrooms (I got morels - see below for a little more about this)
* wheat germ (to give it a little bulk.  This set me back about $3 or $4)
* onion (bought one at the store, not expensive)
* parsley (from the garden)
* cumin and basil (had them)
* olive oil (had it too)

The recipe doesn't specify, but I wanted as complete a Minnesota experience as possible so I hunted down morels, the official state mushroom of Minnesota.  These are not cheap: Melissa's popular brand of dried goods is available at Wegman's.  A small box of morels will run - gasp - $9.  Since I saved money on the salmon from the previous recipe, I splurged on this.  But feel free to use any mushroom - fresh or dried and rehydrated

So I had these morels, right?  And I had to rehydrate them.

Chop or slice the mushrooms, and sauté them in a pan with the onions - sliced - and parsley - chopped - in the olive oil.

Next, add the wild rice and continue to sauté.

Add the remaining ingredients and cook for a few more minutes.

I thought this recipe needed a little salt, which you should do to taste.  Apart from that, this is a simple and filling dish to make.  You get a lot of mileage out of the nutty wild rice.  I have to admit: I didn't taste the morels too much.  Were I to do this again, I would use a cheaper mushroom.


Adams, Marcia. Heartland: The Best of the Old and the New from Midwest Kitchens. Clarkson Potter: New York, 1991.

All Things Considered.  "Best Holiday Food: Tried Some of That Lutefisk?" Reported by Audie Cornish for National Public Radio. Original airdate: December 31, 2010.

Bois Forte Band of Chippewa.  "History".  From the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa website.  Copyright 2011.

Chiu, Michael.  "Gravlax".  From the Cooking for Engineers website.  Published September 2, 2005.

Dooley, Beth, and Lucia Watson.  Savoring Seasons of the Northern Heartland.  Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 1994.

Gates, Stefan.  "Homemade Gravlax".  From the Gastronaut website and the BBC Book Gastronaut, copyright 2006.

Henderson, Helene.  The Swedish Table.  University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, 2005.

Nett Lake Wild Rice.  "Recipes".  Copyright Bois Forte Band of Chippewa.

Seafood from Norway. "Norwegian Gravlax with Whole Grain Mustard Dill Sauce".  From the Seafood from Norway website.  Published 2005.  Copyright Eksportutvalget for fisk (Norwegian Seafood Export Council), 2005.

Some information also obtained from Wikipedia's "Minnesota" page and other pages, and the Food Timeline State Foods link to "Minnesota".