3 minute read

Cooking For The Love Of Wild Wisconsin


Chef Luke Zahm is owner of Driftless Cafe in Viroqua and host of the PBS Wisconsin show “Wisconsin Foodie.”

What keeps my heart so closely connected to Wisconsin are our wild places.

The slippery silence of the rivers coursing through mile upon mile of shoreline, the sound of pine needles swishing in the wind, the autumn light filtering through a color-splashed forest reminding us to take a moment and breathe.

Exploring everything Wisconsin offers by canoe is my favorite vantage point. One of my greatest joys is sharing my love of this place, its connectedness and its gifts with others through the food I create.

For years, I’ve built my menus on this connection. The ingredients I feature echo my love for these wild spaces and my passion for connecting with our waters.

Wild rice is often forgotten, but is an incredibly important food indigenous to Wisconsin, both culturally and ecologically. At my restaurant, wild rice is a staple.

I created this recipe to remind you of how we’re all connected — to the earth, to our culture and history, and to each other.

Luke Zahm considers wild rice an important staple at his restaurant in southwest Wisconsin.

Luke Zahm considers wild rice an important staple at his restaurant in southwest Wisconsin.

Arthur Ircinik


(serves 8 as a side, 6 as a main)


• 3 cups water or stock

• 1 cup wild rice

• ¼ cup dates chopped, tightly packed

• 2 tablespoons butter

• ¼ cup diced onion

• 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

• ¼ cup white wine

• ¼ cup black walnuts, chopped

• ½ cup heavy whipping cream

• 1 oz. sage, thinly slice (chiffonade ribbons)

• 2½ tablespoons salt, or to taste

• 2 teaspoons black pepper

• 1 teaspoon chili flakes


1. Bring water or stock to a boil, stir in uncooked wild rice and date pieces, reduce heat and simmer.

2. Cover for 40-45 minutes or just until kernels puff open. Uncover and fluff with a fork and simmer for an additional five minutes. Drain any excess liquid.

3. While rice cooks, sweat butter, onions and garlic over medium heat. Add cooked wild rice and white wine. Reduce to almost dry.

4. Add black walnuts, cream and sage. Reduce the cream until rice resembles a risotto base.

5. Season to taste with salt, black pepper and chili flakes.


Wild rice, manoomin (the good berry) in Ojibwe, is a grain-producing grass native to the Great Lakes area and portions of Canada. This nutritional grain is central to the cultural identity of the Ojibwe people.

According to Ojibwe oral tradition, centuries ago the Ojibwe were instructed to find the place where “the food grows on the water” during their migration from the East Coast. The journey led them to the shores of Lake Superior, where wild rice was plentiful.

Seen as a special gift from the creator, wild rice became a staple in the Ojibwe diet. Only Wisconsin residents can harvest wild rice within the state, and a wild rice harvest permit is required. Harvesting dates are regulated on many public waters in northern Wisconsin, so know before you go.



Find out more about wild rice harvesting in Wisconsin, including all rules that apply: dnr.wi.gov/tiny/1076