Brown Rice Dressing with Cherries and Pecans

Brown Rice Dressing with Cherries and Pecans

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Last year, or maybe the year before, around Thanksgiving and I threw together a quick pilaf-type rice dish out of some leftover odds and ends I had hanging around. We LOVED it. My family eats rice almost on a daily basis, so including it for a Thanksgiving menu would not be unnatural. But we’d never done it before. After making my recipe and tweaking it a little here and there, I eventually ended up as this savory, filling Brown Rice Dressing with Cherries and Pecans. Dressing? Pilaf? Dressing. I can’t quite decide. But in any case, it’s a great gluten-free replacement for stuffing on your holiday table.

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Now, I’m definitely not forgoing my favorite gluten-free cornbread stuffing this year – it’s mandatory. BUT I’ve sort of fallen in love with this brown rice dressing. I dunno. I guess I’m of a mindset that there is no such thing as too many side dishes for Thanksgiving. It might just be that I really, really like brown rice. In any case, I totally make this dressing with plans in mind for….leftovers. That’s not wrong, right? I mean, really? Thanksgiving is fantastic, but all that effort for one meal? No, no, no. It’s about the big that day and all the ones for days afterwards. And so on day one you enjoy brown rice dressing and then on Days 3-5 following, you can mix up the dressing with the rest of, say, roasted squash or maybe even toss it with some chopped kale. Or turn it into a cold salad and add a yummy vinaigrette. Endless possibilities!

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While we’re talking about Thanksgiving…this Brown Rice Dressing was included in our PLANTSGIVING celebration a few weeks ago. I kind of went back and forth about making it – we already had a delicious Hearty Butternut Walnut Loaf and creamy Vegan Root Veggie Mash, but I felt like I needed to include it. I’m glad did because it was so great with everything else on the plate. (If you’re curious about our entire menu, you can see it here.)

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I found this Sprouted Organic California Rice blend at Trader Joe’s that I really like. It’s perfect for this recipe because the short grains plump up nicely and the extra starchiness kind of helps the dressing stick together in a delightful way. (So maybe it’s really dressing and not pilaf? Pilaf has more separate grains, right? Anyway…) You can totally use whatever wild or brown rice mix you can find. But I highly recommend leaving white rice behind for this recipe. The nutty flavor and chewy texture of the brown rice is fantastic and you’d really miss out on that if you use white rice. (/soapbox)

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Like I said, I really love this recipe. I’ve made it with other kinds of dried fruit and nuts, but I really do adore dried cherries and pecans together, so that’s what I settled on. Use your favorite kind here – figs, dates, apricots, raisins, etc. Whatever you do, make sure you leave everything in big enough pieces so you know they’re in there. Oh! And add all that sage. Go ahead – it’s Thanksgiving! (p.s. Adding it at the end means the flavor will still be extra bright and “green.”)

Brown Rice Dressing with Cherries and Pecans

Ingredients:
1/4 cup vegan butter or avocado oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cups celery, sliced, about 3 medium stalks
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound brown or wild rice mix, uncooked, about 2 1/4 cups
4 t0 4 1/2 cups vegetable stock or broth
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh sage, finely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Melt vegan butter in a 4-quart or larger pot set over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery. Season with a little sea salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies start to soften. Add the minced garlic and cook for 30-60 seconds, until fragrant.
3. Add brown rice to the pot. Stir well. Cook, stirring constantly, to toast the rice a little bit. Add the stock and bay leaves. Bring back to a boil, the lower heat to simmer, cover, and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until rice is almost tender. There should be a little unabsorbed liquid left in the pan; if not, add an extra 1/2 cup stock.
4. Remove from heat and stir in cherries, pecans, and fresh sage. Taste and add more sea salt and pepper, if needed. Place in oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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