Health effects. Smelth effects. I loved MSG. OK, well, that’s an exaggeration. I don’t actually LOVE MSG.
Growing up in the South, MSG (better known by a consumer product brand, Accent) was practically a kitchen staple. You used it in everything: soups, marinades, sprinkled on ‘garden fresh’ tomatoes (yeah, I know how ridiculous fresh anything with MSG sounds), fried chicken, stewed veggies…the list goes on. It wasn’t until well into adulthood that I realized that MSG came attached with some serious health problems – headaches, digestion issues and shortness of breathe to name a few.
As my appreciation for food and cooking has grown and matured over the years, I have tried my best to be more responsible about what I put on the table and in my body. Although, I’ve been known to still use a dash of Accent while making my mother’s ‘best in the South’ fried chicken recipe.
Besides ditching MSG, I’ve made other efforts towards improving my diet. It’s been 3 months since I’ve walked through the doors of a McDonald’s and said, “I’ll have a Number 6 with no ketchup or mustard, one slice of cheese and hold the tomato. With Sweet Tea and Medium Fries.” For those of you who are not McDonald’s connoisseurs, a #6 is a Double Bacon Angus Beef Burger. It’s the same in any McDonald’s in the United States. I’m not proud that I know this.
It is through this renewed embrace of better eating that makes me so excited about many of the recipes in the cookbook, Super Natural Every Day. Written by Heidi Swanson author of the fabulous website 101Cookbooks.com, this book reads like a food romance novel (read the full review at our sister-site TatteredCookbook.com). Her love of food, flavors, exotic ingredients is down right infectious.
One of the many recipes to land at the top of my ‘must cook’ list is the Wild Rice Casserole. The photograph of the dish looked so comforting and so filling that it stopped me dead in my tracks. Made with a blend of wild black rice and red rice, this dish promised to be as filling as any of the heavy meat-laden casserole varieties that many of us are accustomed to.
With excitement I got down to cooking.
As suspected, the black rice gave the dish heft. and served as a perfect compliment to the creamy and slightly tangy baked custard of sour cream, Dijon mustard and cottage cheese.
And making the casserole with two varieties of rices gave it more balance.
Since, I was only cooking dinner for a date and myself, I halved the recipe and baked it off as individual servings. I paired it with a shaved Brussels Sprout & Balsamic Vinaigrette Salad – the cool light and sweet flavor of the salad was a perfect counter to the filling casserole.
WILD RICE CASSEROLE
From Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson
2 large eggs
1 cup cottage cheese
½ cup sour cream
1 TSP Dijon-style mustard
1 TBL extra-virgin olive oil
8 oz cremini mushrooms, chopped
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 cups cooked wild rice and/or brown rice
1/3 cup freshly grated Gruyere cheese
1 TSP chopped fresh tarragon or thyme
Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the top third of the oven. Rub a medium-large baking dish with a bit of butter or olive oil (ideally 9×13” or individual baking dishes).
In a large bowl, whish together the eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream, mustard and a scant ½ teaspoon salt.
In a large skillet over high heat, combine the olive oil with a couple pinches of salt. Stir in the mushrooms. After the initial stirring, leave the mushrooms alone until they release their water and the water evaporates, about 5 minutes. Continue to cook and stir every couple of minutes until the mushrooms are browned. Ad the onion and cook until the onions are translucent, another 2 or 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cook for another minute, and remove from the heat. Add the rice to the skillet and stir until combined.
Add the rice mixture to the cottage cheese mixture, stir until well combined, and turn into the prepared backing dish. Sprinkle with two-thirds of the grated cheese and cover with aluminum foil.
Bake 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the casserole takes on a lot of color. If you are in a rush, you can finish it under a broiler for a couple of minutes, but watch carefully so the top of your casserole doesn’t burn’ it can happen quickly. The finished casserole should be hot throughout and golden along the edges. Serve sprinkled with the chopped tarragon and the remaining grated cheese.