what seasonal means to me and brown rice salad with berries recipe
I don’t really get a lot of comments on my blog. I guess it’s because I don’t spend enough time figuring out the whole SEO thing, commenting on other blogger’s blogs and social networking. I do spend way too much time at my fitness club, on photo shoots, developing recipes and taking care of my family. But last week, my broccoli salad actually got a comment. And let’s just say it wasn’t nice. Check it out.
So I have been thinking about that comment a bunch and I wanted to talk this week about the word “seasonal” and what it means to me. By the way, if you want to see more about what the word “healthy” means to me read this post.
SEASONAL IS LOCAL:
It means knowing the farmer who grew the food that’s on my family’s plate. It means ensuring that the picturesque state of Vermont, where I live, will retain it’s rural beauty because I am supporting the farmers who work the land. It means going to pick up my CSA share before I fill in the gaps at the supermarket. It means eating a heck of a lot of cabbage in the winter because it stores well and that’s what was in the CSA delivery. Again. It means having a freezer in my basement for locally raised meat that I bought at slaughter time. It means knowing the farmer’s name at each stall at the farmer’s market.
SEASONAL IS QUALITY
The quality of the ingredients is better when they are in season. Sure you can buy strawberries at Wal-Mart any day of the year. Though, eating a freshly picked, red-all-the –way-through, summer strawberry will convince you to never buy them out of season again. It means planning my menu on what is freshest right now. It means food will keep longer if it spent less time traveling to our plate.
SEASONAL IS HEALTHY
Cooking in season is also an important way to teach my children about eating healthy foods. Sure I let my kids eat a lollypop from the drive trough at the bank, but they also know that carrots are a root vegetable and that we get them from a farm. When we pick our own food from the earth, they are learning that a fresh locally grown leek, with dirt still clinging to it, looks more like real food than a frozen waffle. I feel comforted to know that the fresh in-season food doesn’t require preservatives to keep it fresh.
SEASONAL IS SUSTAINABLE
Seasonality and supporting local farming was pounded into me in culinary school and reaffirmed by the green movement. It means lowering my carbon footprint.
WHAT SEASONAL MEANS TO ME
I do base the vast majority of my diet, and the food I cook for my family, on that which comes from a CSA year round. Therefore it is mostly local, but I don’t call myself a locavore. While I totally admire those folks who can fully commit to the locavore philosophy, I can’t technically call myself one. I buy raisins and Avocados from California, olive oil from Tuscany, Sherry Vinegar from Spain, Pecans from Texas and Citrus from Florida. We eat seafood from the sea [I try to make sustainable choices.] You get the idea. For the most part I eat local, but I don’t go nutzo about it.
I admit I could be doing better to lower my carbon footprint by eating less of these non-local, albeit healthy, things. But like most things in life, it is all a balancing act.
Like the above mentioned allocation of time spent on my blog and where it falls in the importance of my time spent. Or like the fact that I make healthy choices 90% of the time, but I always have room for chocolate.
There’s also the fact that I work in the food publishing world as a recipe developer and food stylist and I am constantly working with out of season ingredients. It’s July right now, but I am working on a recipe feature for January. As someone who preaches seasonality, it is pretty embarrassing to ask the produce person to order a case of out of season fruit from the other hemisphere.
I do my best and I am always reminding myself that it may be easier to buy food out of season in a package, but it isn’t the best choice.
Mostly, seasonal means cooking for right now. It means using the grill in the summertime. It means using my 450-pound Le Cruset Braiser in the winter. It means preparing more salad and cold meals in the summer and more hot foods in the winter. It means sharing a meal with my family that is unique to that moment.
Last weekend a total of eight of us were staying at my mom’s cottage on Lake Champlain. We took a break from the day’s activities for a lunch on the porch. We shared this rice salad tossed with raspberries and blackberries still warm from the sun under which they were grown. My mom had just picked them from her garden. The scallions had come in my CSA share. The vinegar was from a local apple orchard. Yes I added olive oil from Italy and an orange from Florida. But this meal wasn’t a meal for any other day of the year. It was seasonal.
What does seasonal mean to you?
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours
Makes: 8 cups
- 3 cups water
- 1 ½ cup long-grain brown rice
- 1 orange, zested and juice
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 3 scallions, minced
- ½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
- 1 ½ cups berries
- Fresh mint for garnish
- Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add rice, return to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, 40 minutes. Remove from the heat, spread out on a sheet pan to speed cooling or transfer to a metal bowl and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.
- Whisk orange juice, orange zest, olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Stir in scallions, almonds and the rice. Fold in berries and garnish with mint.