Yam and wild rice salad with lime-chili vinaigrette

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Making my grocery list this weekend, I found myself lingering wistfully over summer food recipes. Panzanella, loaded with fresh tomatoes and brightly-colored bell peppers? Tostada salad with avocado-lime dressing? I wish.

So instead, we work with what we’ve got. This recipe turns wintery ingredients into something decidedly brighter than you’d think they ever could be. The lime juice and chile enlivens the yams and wild rice, moving them from Thanksgiving fare to June/July wannabes.  So if you can’t have summer tomatoes–or guac, or grilled corn, or…or…or–have this, instead.

Yam, wild rice, and winter green salad with lime-chili vinaigrette (serves 8)
Adapted from Jeanne Kelley’s Salad for Dinner

Ingredients
Salad
3 1/2 pounds yams, well scrubbed
1 1/2 cups wild rice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 celery ribs, diced
8 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
bag of winter greens, such as spinach or arugula, or a few chopped heads of greens such as radicchio, red mustard, many Belgian endives, etc (you need enough to form the bed of 8 salads)
Dressing
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, from about 5 limes (main ingredient, so don’t use the stuff out of a bottle)
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon chili powder (ancho chile powder, if you can find it)
small pinch of red pepper flakes (if using regular chile powder)
1 tablespoon cumin*
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions
In a heavy medium saucepan, bring 6 cups of water to boil along with salt and wild rice. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 50 minutes. Drain. I thought my rice looked overcooked; don’t worry, it is not. Let cool completely.

Cook the yams in a large pot of boiling salted water until almost tender when pierced with a sharp knife, about 15 minutes. (If you don’t want to haul out a big pot to do this, it’s fine to cut the yams in half horizontally–hamburger, not hotdog–and boil them that way.) Drain. Set aside to cool.

Whisk the last eight ingredients (lime juice through olive oil) together in a bowl. Or, do as I do and shake them vigorously in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.

Add the celery, green onions, cilantro and 1/4-1/2 cup of the dressing into the wild rice–just eyeball it. You’re looking to moisten but not saturate.

Prepare a grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush yams with olive oil, season to taste with salt and pepper. Grill the yams until tender, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes. (No grill pan? It’s okay: I think you could do this on a non-stick frying pan. I also bet you could preheat a baking pan in a 400F oven and roast the spears on that.)

Put lettuce on plate. Toss with a couple of tablespoons of dressing. Pile the wild rice salad on the lettuce, and then top with a few spears of yams and another drizzle of vinaigrette.

Leftover potential: Store the wild rice and yams in one container, the dressing in a jar, and the lettuce in a bag. Assemble quickly when you arrive at home, ravenous. Dig in and feel the hanger melt away. If you’re bringing as a packed lunch, pile the lettuce, rice, and yams into one container. Bring a small container of extra dressing for drizzling.

*On cumin: Is it weird to have a favorite spice? Because this is mine. So versatile! And so this is where it gets really weird: I love it so much that I toast and grind my own. I found my cumin seeds at my local Middle Eastern shop. Do with this information what you will.

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