I love the summer phenomenon where you can basically take seasonal produce, chop it up, toss it together in a bowl with a little bit of seasoning, and call it a meal. Juicy tomatoes, sweet stonefruit, crisp bell peppers, piquant herbs… summer produce is already so gorgeous it doesn’t need much attention. This wild rice salad with creamy basil vinaigrette is a perfect example of elevating that simple approach to make a meal. Hence I am dubbing it “summer-in-a-bowl”.
The other night I had a friend over to play some video games (I feel your judging eyes on me..) and whipped us up a quick dinner. Just tossed some onion and olive oil in a skillet, and then added tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and bell pepper, and cooked it until everything was done. Seasoned with salt and red pepper flakes, and served with a crusty piece of toast, it was the simplest.dinner.ever. and I actually found myself apologizing for how many times I said OUT LOUD, “I love vegetables”. Yep.. I have come a long way from my childhood 🙂
While this wild rice salad is just a little bit more involved than that bastardized ratatouille from the other night (but still super easy!), it has the same effect on me. When I take a bite, I can only marvel at the pure and simple perfection of texture and flavor coming from the veggies alone. Since I require this crazy thing called “calories”, I created this salad to pair them with chewy, earthy wild rice. And because I’m nuts about texture in grain salads, I also folded in some toasted almond slivers (<- pun intended).
However, it’s really the creamy basil vinaigrette that takes this wild rice salad to the next level. For the creamy base I blended together a mixture of olive oil and cashews, then a splash of white wine vinegar; but of course the basil is the star of the show. I’ve packed an entire bunch of basil in there so that every bite of the salad is kissed with basil flavor. For those of you without a blender, check the recipe notes for a blender-free dressing option. For those of you who eat oil-free, I’ve got you covered too. I want everyone to be able to enjoy this summer-in-a-bowl salad 🙂
One last thing: the smoked tofu is optional depending on how many servings you want this to be, or whether you want it as more of a side dish or entree salad. The wild rice salad tastes great without. That said, I think it adds another nice flavor and texture to the mix, so if you can get your hands on some, I recommend it. Cheers!
Summer-in-a-bowl Wild Rice Salad with Creamy Basil Vinaigrette
For the creamy basil vinaigrette (makes extra):
- 1.5 oz fresh basil (42g) stems removed
- 2 cloves garlic chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup raw cashews (soaked overnight in tap water if not using a high-speed blender)
- 6 tablespoons plain, unsweetened nondairy milk (1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons)
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (plus more to taste)
- 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
- salt and pepper to taste
For the wild rice:
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 white or yellow onion finely chopped
- 1 cup uncooked wild rice
- 3 cups water
For the wild rice salad:
- 8 oz . (227g) cherry tomatoes, quartered
- kernels from one ear of corn (roast the corn first if preferred, otherwise it's used in the salad raw)
- 1 bell pepper diced
- 1 fresh peach or 1 large nectarine diced
- 1/4 head of purple cabbage finely-chopped
- 1/4 cup slivered toasted almonds
- 8 oz. smoked tofu, drained (optional) (227 g.)
- 1 tbsp soy sauce (optional)
- 1/2 recipe creamy basil vinaigrette (recipe above)
- cooked wild rice (recipe above)
For the creamy basil vinaigrette:
- Combine all ingredients in a blender or a powerful food processor until very smooth. If not using a high-speed blender, it may take a few minutes of blending, while stopping to scrape down the sides as needed, for the cashews to get smooth. If necessary, you can add more nondairy milk to help blend.
- Add plenty of salt and pepper, plus more vinegar if desired, to taste. Store leftover dressing in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week.
For the wild rice:
- Warm the olive oil in the bottom of a saucepan. Add the garlic and onion along with a sprinkle of salt, and stir. Cook for about 3 minutes, or until onion and garlic are softened.
- Add the wild rice to the pan and stir. Cook for 60 seconds, until the wild rice is fragrant. Add the water and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover the pan and cook for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the wild rice is fluffy and tender.
- Drain any excess water from the rice, if present.
For the wild rice salad:
- If using the smoked tofu, cut it into small cubes, and toss them together with the soy sauce in a bowl. Let them sit for 5 minutes to absorb the soy sauce.
- In a mixing bowl, fold together the wild rice, prepped fruits and vegetables, and toasted almonds. Fold in the tofu if using. Drizzle with the basil vinaigrette and stir to combine.
- This salad is best served while still slightly warm, or completely cold - the middle ground isn't as tasty. Leftovers keep well for up to a week in the refrigerator.
OIL-FREE: Omit the oil in the dressing and increase the cashews by 2 tablespoons. If you don't have a high-speed blender, you may need additional nondairy milk for blending. Saute the onion and garlic for the wild rice in a splash of water or vegetable broth before continuing with the recipe as written.
TO MAKE WITHOUT A BLENDER: Chop the basil very finely with a sharp knife, or pound it in a mortar and pestle. Mince the garlic instead of simply chopping it. Omit the raw cashews, adding another 2 tablespoons of olive oil (2 tablespoons of raw cashew butter or almond butter may also work well). Reduce the nondairy milk by half. Adjust seasoning as needed.
NUTRITION: Nutrition facts include optional tofu, optional soy sauce, and 1/2 of the vinaigrette recipe.
This summer-in-a-bowl wild rice salad with creamy basil vinaigrette would also be delicious topped with some crumbled baked almond feta!
My Hawaiian tofu poke is also delicious served cold in these summer dog days: