Standing on my front porch watching the chilly wind blowing through the naked trees, I am reminded that soon we will be gathering with friends and family to give thanks.  Whether you are the host or a guest on Thanksgiving, the occasion calls  for special dishes.  In some circles the expectation of tradition stands strong and the holiday would not be right without “grandma’s sweet potatoes” or whatever your family holds dear.  For me, I like to mix it up and use this occasion to try something new.  It would be my preference to disregard all the standards and prepare something completely out of the box but my family protests and roast turkey, cranberries, mashed potatoes and gravy prevail.  As a result, I always have to prepare at least one dish that is new and unique to satisfy my culinary desires.  This year I developed the featured recipe combining “forbidden rice” with seasonal squash and pecans.  I cannot wait to serve it and see the gangs reaction.IMG_9663

What exactly is forbidden rice?  Fabled to enrich health and longevity, it is also known as black rice. Legend has it that this ancient grain, because of its high nutritional values, got its name because it was once eaten exclusively by the Emperors of China.  The common man/woman were “forbidden” to eat it for fear there would not be enough for royalty.  Its deep color is a striking presence on the plate and is now widely available and known as a wholesome everyday rice.  Its nutty flavor pairs well with almost any cuisine and can be eaten– steamed plain, in pilaf, stir-fry, salad or pudding.  A recent study showed that a spoonful of black rice bran or ten spoonfuls of the cooked rice contains the same amount of antioxidants as a helping of blueberries.  In addition, this rice provides the richest nutritional value, providing a higher level of vitamins , minerals and fiber of any rice bran.


Here is how it went down in my kitchen.

FORBIDDEN RICE with ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH & PECANS                                     Serves 6

Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes (acorn squash could also be used)
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 3 c Forbidden rice (wild rice can be substituted), cooked ( I cooked mine in a rice cooker, 1c rice to 1 1/2 c liquid, either stock or water, but can be cooked on stovetop)
  • 2 tablespoons butter (oil for Vegan) + 1T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 slices prosciutto, thinly sliced, roughly chopped (optional)
  • 1 large shallot, peeled and diced
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt and Pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Toss the peeled and diced squash in oil and spread over a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Turn and spread the squash again and roast another 10 minutes. In the last 5 minutes sprinkle the pecans over the squash so the pieces can toast.  Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, melt butter and oil in a large skillet.  Cook the prosciutto until crisp, remove and drain on paper towel. Set aside.
  3. Add the shallot and cook until soft and translucent.
  4. Stir in the cooked rice and heat through.
  5. Gently fold in the squash and pecans.  Heat through.
  6. Remove from heat and add the orange zest and thyme leaves. Mix and taste. Add salt and pepper to taste, keeping in mind the saltiness of the prosciutto, if using.
  7. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with a crisp piece of prosciutto (optional).

Note: This can be made ahead (without the pecans and prosciutto), covered, refrigerated.  When time to serve, warm in oven, covered,  @ 350-375 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until warmed through. Right before serving, stir in the pecans (roasted separately in a dry skillet, cooled and stored in an airtight container).  Garnish with the crispy prosciutto, if using.IMG_9636

Besides being stunning on a plate, it is delicious on the palate — nutty, even a little fruity.  Its somewhat chewy texture serves as a great contrast to the softness of the squash.  I have bought this product at our local natural foods co-op and at Whole Foods, but if you can’t find it locally, it is available from several sources online.  If you wish, you could substitute wild rice.

IMG_9651I enjoy Thanksgiving for its rich tradition of food, family, friends and gratitude.  Taking a few minutes out of our busy lives to show our appreciation for the bounty we enjoy and those who share it with us, brings a smile of joy to my face.  Regardless of what dishes grace your table, be it black rice or your family favorites, keep spreading the love, one dish at a time.  Hopefully, my family will feel like royalty when they taste this creation.  Until next time, what’s better than good nutrition and love on a platter?  JeanneIMG_9640




  1. Jeanne, that sounds & looks delicious! I’m like you — bowing to tradition, but presenting something “new” too. Make-ahead dishes are a plus — more time with family & friends! Truly a beautiful Autumn dish. Thanks!

    • Hi Kim: Thank you for your remarks that are always welcome. This is a wonderful dish to celebrate the season and I think it has wide appeal. Wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving. May you be blessed throughout the year. Sending love from the Midwest, Jeanne

  2. Elizabeth Palmer

    Just finished reading through this, and it sounds pretty simple to put together. It is visually spectacular, as well. It might not find it’s way onto our traditional Thanksgiving dinner table, but I think I’ll work it into the holiday season to come. I like the idea of this dish at room temp. Love your creativity, Jeanne!

  3. Thanks, Elizabeth. As always I enjoy hearing from you. Room temp not only makes things easier but it allows the flavor of the food to shine. Wishing you and your family a wonderful thanksgiving. Are you cooking? I am hosting 10 people, mostly family so it wont be too bad. Thank you again. Jeanne

  4. Elizabeth Palmer

    We gather with my husband’s family, 30-40 strong! Dave and I are always responsible for the mashed potatoes. We have done it for many years, and really have it down to a science. We even have “his and hers” Oxo Good Grips potato peelers! Here’s one helpful hint: if called upon to make mashed potatoes for a large group, once you have a head count, “Google” the number of potatoes you need to prepare, and the info pops right up. We usually prepare about 15 lbs. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • 15 lbs. of potatoes is quite an undertaking. Love the his and hers potato peelers. Love the helpful hint as well. Thanks for both the image of you two peeiing so many potatoes and the hint. Wishing you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving!

  5. Elizabeth Welch Palmer

    Jeanne, can’t believe it’s been 2 years since I first read through this recipe! It has been in the back of my mind (and in my imagination) since. I made a dish with most of the same components, using the wild rice option. I dressed the room temp roasted squash and rice with Pomegranate Molasses vinaigrette, served on a bed of greens (baby arugula). It was delicious and enjoyed at a family Christmas party yesterday.

    Miss your blog posts, hope the past year has been good for you and family. Merry Christmas to you all!

  6. Hi Elizabeth. So wonderful to hear from you. Glad my recipes have endured even though I am taking a sabbatical from my writing, hopefully temporary. I decided to take a break to give myself time to rejuvenate and gather some inspiration. Don’t give up on me yet. Wishing you and your family a very merry Christmas 🎄🎁 and blessings in the new year. Please keep in touch.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s