So here we are, it’s fall. No sense in denying it anymore. I have tried to push off fall and winter by simply clamping my hands over my ears, closing my eyes and loudly singing “la la la la la la la la!”. It doesn’t seem to work. In fact, I would not recommend that method for nearly any reason. All it did was make the people in the coffee shop stare at me like I was crazy.
One of the changes that comes about when fall arrives is the desire for more hearty foods. In this household, that usually means chili and soups, but anything that sticks to your ribs is welcome. So the struggle to maintain a fresh, healthy diet is a real challenge. One of the small items, I have found, that can help bridge that gap is wild rice. I’m going to go ahead and call wild rice a “superfood”. It is gluten-free, low in fat, high in protein, amino acid and fiber. It has slightly less protein than oats but more than quinoa.
Today’s meal uses wild rice as a base on which to serve pork tenderloin. If you add your choice of side, in this case: sautéed vegetables, then you have a full and delicious meal that is still healthy!
Wild Rice – 1 Cup (makes about 3 cups cooked)
Chicken Broth (low sodium) or water (your choice) – 2 cups
Scallions – 4
Green pepper – 1
Red onion – 1
Yellow squash – 1
Herb Rubbed Pork Tenderloin (Hormel or Smithfield – any tenderloin works)
Salt (Standard, sea, kosher, your choice)
Fresh Ground Pepper
½ tablespoon of olive oil
- Start the wild rice. You can prepare it either on the stove top or
in a rice cooker. I use a rice
cooker. In either case, start by rinsing
the wild rice thoroughly under cold water and shake to drain.
- For a rice cooker: add 1 cup wild rice, 2 -2.25 cups broth or water and set on the brown rice setting. It will take anywhere from 30-80 minutes depending on the particular wild rice.
- Stove top: If you go this route, your cooking times will be a similarly wide window. Your ratios of liquid to rice can be the same, or you can opt for more liquid here. You will simply be cooking to a texture and taste that you like. Bring water to a boil, introduce wild rice, reduce to simmer, cover and let cook for as long as it takes. Once done, you can drain off any extra liquid in a strainer and return to pot with heat on lowest setting to keep warm.
- It’s now fall – so go watch the hockey game while the rice cooks.
- Ok, now that the first period of the game is over, back to the kitchen with you. Leave the game on in the background.
- Start the oven, set to 425 degrees (or whatever temp the package on your pork tenderloin calls for – some are 350, some are 425). Place pork tenderloin in an uncovered baking dish and place in the oven when the desired temperature is reached. Generally, a pork tenderloin will take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes to cook. You want it to be 155-165 degrees in the center. Try to time this, as much as possible, with the wild rice. When finished cooking, let sit for 5 minutes before slicing.
- Slice up the scallions including green and white parts. These will be used to mix with the wild rice for a bit of fresh garnish.
- Prepare the vegetables for sautéing. I like to slice the yellow squash about half as thick as the green pepper or red onion.
- Once the wild rice is finished and just warming, I will toss in the scallions and mix them up – giving them a few minutes to warm. Here you may season the rice with additional salt and pepper if desired, but I find wild rice needs very little seasoning. It has a delicious nutty flavor that stands well on its own.
- When the pork tenderloin is done, and standing for its ten minutes, then it is time to start sautéing the vegetables. Get the pan warmed up just prior to taking the tenderloin out so you have a solid 10 minutes to cook the vegetables. Add the olive oil, add vegetables, and season with to taste with salt and pepper. Here, you have a choice on how much you want the vegetables sautéed. Generally, I like do a high-heat sauté so I get just a touch of color on the veggies.
- The vegetables should be the last thing to finish cooking – the other items will not cool off as fast so this is the order of preparation I use. At this point, simply plate as shown and serve.
- Go back to the hockey game. Go habs go!
Wild Rice: There are several wild rice varieties and quality levels – and they can all cook slightly differently. While the approach is the same, you may need to make allowances for time. Simply put, some forms of rice may take longer to cook than others. How long? It can vary between 30 and 80 minutes depending on brand and that particular harvest.
Ideally, I like the kernels of wild rice to be cracking open, but not be split wide open and curled too much. It is ok to have some of that, but it depends on the texture you want. You may need to add water, or you may need to add time.
Wild rice that is left more intact can be a bit al dente, and it creates a nice chewy texture. If it is split wide open and heavily curled, it can be a bit mushy. But this isn’t bad if it dry. I prefer it just where most all of the kernels are just split open. Experiment with this and enjoy!
Timing: Getting everything ready at the same time is almost impossible to predict because of the nature of cooking wild rice. So one way to make it easy is to start the wild rice first and then simply keep it warm until everything else is ready.
This is easy to do – most rice cookers have a “keep warm” setting or a visible timer to let you know when it will be done. On the stove top you can see the rice and can see when it starts cracking open. But start the rice early, and let it cook – simply keep it warm on the stove top or rice cooker while you finish everything else.
Sautéing Vegetables: The only hitch here is starting the yellow squash before the green pepper and onions. I like to give the squash just a couple minutes to get a head start since it is a more dense vegetable and needs a little longer to soften and cook. Slicing the squash about half as thick as the onion really helps in equalizing the cook time.
Pork Tenderloin: Getting the pre-seasoned tenderloins from the grocery store makes your life easy. Yes, you can get larger banquet style tenderloins and create your own herb rub or marinade, but you have a busy life and this is about putting together a delicious dinner for your every day! Don’t overcomplicate your life unless you are cooking for a special occasion.
You can see other recipes that feature wild rice here:
Total calories: 598
5 ounces of Pork Tenderloin is 163 calories
1.5 cups of steamed wild rice: 250 calories
2 cups of the sautéed vegetables is about 185 calories.