With a bright citrus dressing loaded with pears and wild rice, this salad will be anything but boring for Thanksgiving! Wild rice is cooked to perfection, and when combined with candied pecans and seasonal fruit, it’s a salad that’s a hearty star!
In a saucepan, combine the water, butter, and rinsed rice. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer. Simmer the rice until it is tender with all of the water absorbed, 45-50 minutes. Once cooked, remove the lid and set the rice aside to cool.
For the pecans
In a small nonstick skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the pecans, brown sugar, and orange juice. Cook over medium heat until the sugar caramelizes and coats the pecans, 5-8 minutes.
Once the pecans are coated, remove them from the heat and spread them out on a piece of parchment paper. Sprinkle with salt and allow them to cool.
For the dressing
In a small bowl or dressing shaker, combine the Dijon mustard, honey, orange juice, orange zest, champagne vinegar, salt, black pepper, shallot, and garlic. Whisk to combine.
Continue whisking and drizzle in the olive oil until the dressing is emulsified.
For the salad
On a large platter or bowl, toss the chopped lettuce, half of the sliced pears, chopped parsley, and the prepared rice. Add the dressing to taste and toss everything together.
Arrange the remaining pears, dried cranberries, and feta on top of the salad and serve.
Wild rice cooks longer than regular white rice because of the texture of the rice. But when used in this salad, it’s definitely a welcome addition. Plus, wild rice is healthier than traditional rice varieties. White or brown rice can be used in its place, but opt for wild rice if possible.
When zesting any citrus, hold the fruit in your hand and use the Microplane in the opposite hand. This way, all of the zest will accumulate in the Microplane and will be easy to tap out into the dressing once fully zested.
Rather than using a bowl and whisk to combine the salad dressing, the mixture can easily be shaken in a container, whether it’s a cup with a lid or a salad dressing container. Or, it can be made directly in a wooden serving bowl. Whatever works best for your salad-making process will lead to success with this dressing.
The best time to taste the dressing for the correct level of seasoning is right after it’s mixed rather than once it’s on the salad. Take a piece of lettuce, dip it into the dressing, and eat it, concentrating on the level of salt and pepper. Adjust the seasoning to your personal preference.