Wild Rice Salad with Apples, Walnuts, and Dried Cranberries with an Orange Vinaigrette

Wild Rice Salad with Apples, Walnuts, and Dried Cranberries with an Orange Vinaigrette
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About This Recipe

I'll admit it – there's something truly magical about the fall season in Napa Valley. The colors, the cool breeze after a warm summer, and, of course, the harvest. This season always inspires me to create dishes that mirror the landscape. And, in this spirit, my Wild Rice Salad with Apples, Walnuts, and Dried Cranberries crowned with a zesty Orange Vinaigrette was born. Every bite evokes the essence of a Napa autumn.

The wild rice, with its nutty and earthy flavor, is reminiscent of the fields post-harvest. The apples, fresh from local orchards, add a crisp sweetness, while the dried cranberries bring out a tangy chewiness. But what really ties this dish together is the zesty orange vinaigrette, made with fresh oranges right from the groves on the outskirts of wine country.

Now, speaking of wine – because, let’s face it, it's Napa and how can we not? – I found two incredible pairings that elevate this dish to another level. An Albariño from Hendry Ranch Wines, with its aromatic burst of citrus and green apple, and the subtly creamy Viognier from Cline Cellars in Sonoma, echoing whispers of peach and apricot. Both wines enhance the salad's flavors, creating an ensemble reminiscent of a wine vineyard symphony.

For side dishes, consider roasted brussels sprouts or a butternut squash soup. Their warm flavors create a harmonious meal that's pure wine country on a plate. And if you're looking for dessert, a poached pear drizzled with honey and perhaps a sprinkle of cinnamon pairs wonderfully, especially if you've got a glass of that Viognier on hand.

For those who love the farm to table concept, Napa is the place to be. Most of the ingredients for this dish can be sourced from local farms. Places like the Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing Company offer rich, authentic, and home-made oils that'll make your vinaigrette stand out. And if you're in town, don’t miss the St. Helena Farmers Market – it's a haven for fresh produce and a genuine reflection of Napa’s farm-to-table spirit.

For visitors or those new to the region, here's a little tip: don't just stick to the main roads. Venture off the beaten path, and you might just stumble upon a hidden gem like Smith-Madrone Vineyards. Nestled atop Spring Mountain, this winery offers breathtaking views, and their wines are a class apart. Trust me; it’s a wine menu experience you won't forget.

Summer dinners here are all about easy healthy dinners that celebrate our bounteous produce. So, the next time you think of a quick dinner, let this wild rice salad be your go-to. With the setting sun casting a golden hue over the vineyards, there's no better way to wind down the day in the heart of wine country.

So, whether you're a valley chef or someone just looking for authentic recipes from the heart of Napa, this dish promises to deliver. It's my love letter to the region I call home, hoping to bring a piece of wine country right to your dinner table. Enjoy and cheers!

Unveiling the Wonders of Wild Rice

Wild rice isn't just any ordinary grain. This aquatic grass seed, predominantly grown in the shallow waters of the Great Lakes region, stands out with its distinctive blackish-brown color and robust flavor. Contrary to its name, wild rice isn't rice at all but a close relative, providing a plethora of health benefits:

  1. Rich in Nutrients: Wild rice is a great source of protein, fiber, and vital minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc.
  2. Antioxidant Properties: Its dark hue hints at a high concentration of antioxidants, helping fend off harmful free radicals.
  3. Heart-Friendly: With zero cholesterol and its ability to reduce oxidative stress, wild rice can contribute to cardiovascular health.
  4. Gluten-Free: Perfect for those with gluten intolerances or sensitivities, wild rice offers a flavorful alternative to traditional grains.

Pair wild rice's nutty taste with the Napa Valley's luscious offerings, like crisp apples and tangy dried cranberries, and you're set for a meal that's both nutritious and steeped in wine country spirit.

How to Perfectly Toast Walnuts

Toasting walnuts is a game-changer, elevating their crunchiness while deepening their flavor. Here's how to do it right:

  1. Preheat Your Oven: Set it to 350°F (175°C).
  2. Spread the Walnuts: Use a single layer on a baking sheet. Ensure they aren't crowded to toast evenly.
  3. Bake with Caution: Place the sheet in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Check frequently, as walnuts can burn quickly. They're ready when they've darkened slightly and emit a rich, nutty aroma.
  4. Cool Before Using: Allow the toasted walnuts to cool on the baking sheet. They'll continue to crisp up as they cool.

FAQs About Wild Rice Salad

  1. How can I store leftover wild rice salad? Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Toss it gently before serving to rejuvenate its flavors.
  2. Can I substitute another nut for the walnuts? Absolutely! Almonds or pecans would be delightful substitutes, keeping in tune with the dish's texture and taste.
  3. Any suggestions for making this dish vegan? You can replace honey in the vinaigrette with maple syrup or agave nectar for a fully vegan dish.
  4. Which type of apple best suits this salad? Crisp varieties like Honeycrisp or Gala are ideal as they hold their shape and provide a juicy crunch.
  5. Do I need any special tools to zest the orange? A microplane or the fine side of a box grater works best for zesting. Ensure you only get the orange part and not the bitter white pith beneath.

Tips for Wild Rice Salad Success

  1. Chill Before Serving: Letting the salad rest in the fridge for a bit allows the flavors to meld beautifully. If you have time, make it a couple of hours in advance.
  2. Fresh Ingredients: The beauty of this salad is its simplicity, so opt for the freshest ingredients. Napa Valley's farmers' markets are a treasure trove for these.
  3. Wine Pairing: Embrace the spirit of Napa by pairing this salad with a chilled glass of Albariño or Viognier. The wines' citrusy notes will dance harmoniously with the orange vinaigrette.

As the essence of Napa Valley's orchards and vineyards comes alive in this salad, each bite transports you to the heart of wine country. Enjoy its vibrant flavors and the rich heritage it carries. Cheers to delightful culinary adventures!

Recipe Overview

Wild Rice Salad with Apples, Walnuts, and Dried Cranberries with an Orange Vinaigrette
Lily Anderson
6 servings
Calories Per Serving:
Prep Time:
Cook Time:
Total Time:

Ingredients List


  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 medium-sized apples, diced (preferably a crisp variety like Honeycrisp or Gala)
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

For the Orange Vinaigrette:

  • Zest and juice of 1 large orange
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the wild rice and salt, reduce heat to low, and simmer covered for 45 minutes, or until the rice is tender and has popped open.
  2. Once cooked, drain any excess water and allow the rice to cool to room temperature.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooled rice, diced apples, toasted walnuts, dried cranberries, green onions, and fresh parsley.
  4. In a separate small bowl, whisk together all the vinaigrette ingredients until well combined. Pour the vinaigrette over the rice mixture and toss gently to coat.
  5. Let the salad sit for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld. This salad can also be refrigerated and served chilled.

Share Your Results

Was it everything you dreamed it could be? Let me know how it turned out for you and share a picture on social media with the hashtag #LilyCooksNapa

Hello and welcome to Napa Home Chef! We're thrilled you're joining us to explore the vibrant world of wine country cooking. Our team has crafted bold, creative recipes inspired by Napa Valley's lush landscapes, bountiful harvests, and world-renowned wines. We hope you enjoy the journey with us!

Get ready to experience the rich flavors and unique culinary delights that embody the essence of wine country living. Happy cooking!

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