One thing my city’s really missing is a salad bar type place. No, not like Bonanza (however, I can’t tell you how obsessed I was with their chips and florescent-orange nacho cheese sauce as a kid!) rather, a fast-casual restaurant with loads of different lettuces and grains to choose from – kale, spinach, arugula, quinoa, etc. – and a buffet of toppings and dressings to really jazz things up. Oh, and someone to make it for you. Salads always taste better when they’re made by somebody else!
If a place like this existed near me I’d undoubtedly eat there a minimum of 3 times a week for lunch or dinner…and consequently go broke. #worthit
That being said, I was pumped when Ben’s mom pointed out a salad bar spot to hit up for lunch when we were out and about in DC a couple weeks ago called Sweetgreen. With several locations in and around the DC area, Sweetgreen sources local and organic ingredients, even posting which farms they’ve come from on chalkboards around the restaurant. How cool is that?
They’ve got tons of unique salad options on the menu, plus the opportunity to create your own blend, but my eye was caught by their Wild Rice Bowl – a special of the month.
Warm wild rice is tossed with shredded kale, apples, dried cranberries, sliced almonds, chicken, goat cheese and your choice of dressing. It was freaking AMAZING. It came in a gigantic bowl and I ate every last morsel. As with many vacation meals that I enjoy, I couldn’t wait to get home and recreate.
Although I had to make it myself, I think I enjoyed the homemade version even more than the original! Maybe it’s because I really slathered on the Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette, which is sweet, tart, and tangy. Sweetgreen gave me the option of going light, medium, or heavy on the dressing and I went with “medium”. A rookie mistake. I mean, the salad was obviously yummy enough to inspire me to make it at home but it was even better when I really slathered on the good stuff.
In addition to the dressing, this combo of ingredients makes you want to keep eating and eating wishing the bowl never ended. Crunchy, chewy, sweet, savory, warm, cold…I’m in love. This recipe makes two HUGE bowls too, so tell the salad hater in your life to stuff it – literally. They won’t be able to eat another drop after polishing off this bowl o’ deliciousness!
Start by cooking 1 cup wild rice blend (Lundberg is my favorite!) in 2 cups chicken broth until just barely tender, about 35 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat then let the rice steam with the lid on for an additional 10 minutes. This is my secret to perfect wild and brown rice! After steaming, remove the lid then let the rice cool down until it’s just warm.
Meanwhile, season 1 chicken breast cut into bite-sized pieces with salt, pepper, and garlic powder then saute in a nonstick sprayed skillet over medium-high heat until no longer pink in the center. Remove to a plate then set aside.
Last thing to make is the Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette – this is a riff on the Honey-Balsamic dipping sauce I pair with my California Quesadillas and it’s, as they say, totally legit. To a jar with a tight fitting lid add 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 Tablespoon honey, 1 microplaned or minced garlic clove, salt and pepper then shake to combine. Dressing = done!
Finally, get your kale ready. You’ll need 4 cups chopped kale which is about 3-4 big kale leaves. I used curly kale, because that’s what SweetGreen used, but you can use whatever you like!
Just tear the leaves off the thick, woody stem then shred with a knife.
Make sure to rinse and spin after chopping. Curly kale is notorious for having dust and dirt stuck in the leaves, in my experience.
Ok, time to assemble. To a BIG bowl add the warm rice and chicken, along with 1/4 cup each sliced almonds and dried cranberries. I did this in two batches because I didn’t have a big enough bowl.
Next add 1 chopped apple and 2oz crumbled chevre. Be sure to leave the chevre crumbles kind of big so you get yummy cheese pockets within the bowls. Mmm…cheese pockets. Finally, add the chopped kale and vinaigrette. Now, normally you’d have to massage curly kale a bit to make it easier to eat, but the warm rice takes care of it for you, softening the kale just slightly.
Toss with tongs until everything is coated in the dressing then scoop into big, big bowls and dig in!
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Kale and Wild Rice Bowls with Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette
Gluten-free Kale and Wild Rice Bowls with Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette are hearty but fresh and full of flavor.
- 1 cup wild rice blend
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
- salt, pepper and garlic powder
- 4 cups chopped kale
- 1 apple, chopped
- 2oz goat cheese, crumbled
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- For the Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette:
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 1 clove garlic, microplaned or finely minced
- salt and pepper
- Bring chicken broth to a boil in a medium-sized pot then add rice, place a lid on top, turn heat down to medium-low and simmer until tender, 35-40 minutes. Remove from heat then let sit for 10 minutes to continue steaming, then fluff and let cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, combine ingredients for Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette in a jar or small bowl then shake or whisk to combine and set aside.
- Season chicken with salt, pepper and garlic powder then saute in a non-stick sprayed skillet over medium-high heat until no longer pink in the center. Remove to a plate then set aside.
- In a very large bowl combine warm rice, chicken, kale, apple, goat cheese, dried cranberries, and sliced almonds. Drizzle with vinaigrette then toss with tongs to evenly coat and then serve. May need to do this in two batches.
This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.