I love the many different subtleties of flavor in this salad -- the spices that make the curry, the caramelized sweetness of the shallot, the crunch of the toasted almonds, and of course the sweetly savory flavor of the grains and pasta. There's so much going on in this salad, and yet it is so simple to put together.
The best thing about this salad is you can make it up on a weekend and have it for lunches or dinners throughout the week. It keeps really well for several days, with the flavor only getting better over time.
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My husband and I attended a wedding this past weekend of a young woman we have watched grow up, year after year, at our cottage. Her wedding was the antithesis of what now seems to be the modern wedding. No expensive or exotic locale, the service was held in the tiny country church in our tiny town and the reception was held in her father's building shop, transformed into a beautiful party room by her cousins. No expensive caterers, the cooking was done by her mother, her sister, her aunt and her cousin and the flowers, potatoes, tomatoes and garlic all came from her mother's garden. That's about as local as it gets. The guests scraped and washed their own dishes in tubs of water provided and then we danced the night away at a ceilidh. Their honeymoon is a bike trip.My contribution to the wedding was being in charge of getting the food to the buffet table and ensuring that the 85 guests had everything they needed. Mine was the last plate filled, and by the time I sat down to eat everyone was raving about the food, especially the curried lentil, wild rice and orzo salad. After dinner I asked the head chef, the bride's aunt, for the recipe and she said she got it from the great Canadian standby The Complete Canadian Living Cookbook by Elizabeth Baird. The recipe looks long, but it is mostly spices for the dressing. These ladies ground the spices themselves which really makes the flavours pop, but go ahead and use ready ground spices if you want.
Thanks to Jane Nigh for a truly delicious dinner, and for pointing me in the right direction for the recipe.
Curried Lentil, Wild Rice and Orzo Salad
1/2 cup wild rice
2/3 cup green lentils
1/2 cup orzo pasta
1/2 cup currants
1/4 cup finely sliced shallot
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 pinch cinnamon
1 pinch cloves
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1/3 cup canola oil or vegetable oil
1. In large pot of boiling salted water, cover and cook wild rice for 10 minutes.
2. In a small sauté pan, warm a drizzle of olive oil and slowly caramelize the shallots. They will turn golden and be done about the same time the grains are done, after 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, add lentils to the rice; boil for 20 minutes. Add orzo; cook just until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well and transfer to large bowl.
4. After the onions are done, add the slivered almonds and toast in the remaining oil, constantly stirring until they are lightly golden. Remove from heat.
5. In small bowl, whisk together vinegar, cumin, mustard, sugar, salt, coriander, turmeric, paprika, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and cayenne; whisk in oil.
6. In a large bowl, combine the grains and orzo, the shallots, almonds, and the dressing. Toss to combine.
7. Let cool; cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours. (Make-ahead: Refrigerate for up to 24 hours.) To serve, sprinkle salad with almonds.