Try a Minnesota tasting experience

Farm Forum

“Have you ever had tater tot hot dish?” I asked a couple of people as we discussed foods typical of parts of Minnesota. These people were participating in a training program with me held in Minnesota’s Twin Cities.

“What is a hot dish?” one of them asked.

I figured this menu item would be new to them. They were from Indiana, same place as my husband. I have had to introduce him to the delicacies of my home state, too.

Yes, he thinks some of my family recipes are a little strange, but that’s another story.

I began describing items such as tuna noodle hot dish and spaghetti hot dish. I described how to layer the ingredients to make tater tot hot dish.

I knew what the next comment would be because I have had this conversation with other people.

“Oh, you are talking about casseroles,” one of them said.

“Yes, that’s another name for them. Do you know what bars are?” I asked, thinking they should learn about this Midwestern staple.

They looked at me with quizzical expressions.

“I don’t mean a place that serves alcohol,” I added as a hint. I began naming a few desserts made in pans.

“We call them brownies or cookie bars,” one of them replied.

I didn’t talk about the Jello salads of my youth. They were lucky.

I had dinner with one of my workshop companions, and I suggested that she choose wild rice soup from the menu. Wild rice was something new to her as well, and she studied the grains pretty closely. In fact, we found a store that sold wild rice for her to try at home.

Wild rice is a food strongly associated with parts of Minnesota. In fact, it is the state grain of Minnesota. Different varieties of wild rice are grown in other areas of the U.S. and Canada.

Wild rice is a part of Native American culture and traditions. Wild rice is a type of grass that grows in shallow lakes, and it typically is harvested from canoes with wooden sticks. The grains are dark brown to black, and they require a longer cooking time than white rice.

Compared with white rice, wild rice has fewer calories and a lower carbohydrate content. It has more protein and fiber than white rice.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutrition database, 1 cup of cooked wild rice has about 170 calories, 6.5 grams of protein, less than a gram of fat, 35 grams of carbohydrate and 3 grams of fiber. In comparison, 1 cup of cooked long-grain white rice has 205 calories, 4.3 grams of protein, 44 grams of carbohydrate and about 0.6 gram of fiber.

In some areas, wild rice only is available seasonally. Keep in mind that pure wild rice usually is significantly more expensive than white rice. Wild rice blends also are available.

Wild rice takes longer to cook than white rice. To make 3 cups of wild rice, mix 1 cup uncooked wild rice with 3 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon salt (if desired). Heat to boiling, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes until it is tender. You can refrigerate leftover wild rice about four days or freeze the extra wild rice. Try it as a side dish or use it in other recipes.

I grew up having cooked wild rice as a holiday side dish at Thanksgiving and Christmas. We enjoyed its distinctive flavor and texture topped with a dab of butter, salt and pepper. We never had it as part of a “hot dish.” I later learned about the wide variety of soups and casseroles that include wild rice. Although you can buy mixed varieties of rice, give pure wild rice a chance some time.

Here’s a tasty soup recipe to try.

Creamy Wild Rice Soup

1/4 c. butter

1 medium onion, chopped

8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced

1/2 c. carrot, finely chopped

1/4 c. flour

1/4 tsp. pepper

2 c. reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 (12-ounce) can evaporated skim milk

1 c. cooked wild rice, prepared according to the package directions

4 ounces low-fat cream cheese, cut into small cubes

Salt to taste (if desired)

Curry powder or paprika (optional)

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, mushrooms and carrot; saute until tender. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Whisk in broth. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for one minute. Stir in milk and cooked wild rice. Stir in cheese until it melts and soup is heated. If desired, garnish with a sprinkle of spice.

Makes six servings. Without added salt, each serving has 230 calories, 11 grams (g) fat, 11 g protein, 22 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber and 430 milligrams sodium.