Monday, March 19, 2012

Brown and Wild Rice with Asparagus and Peas: Salad for an Early Spring

It’s hard to know which direction to go in my seasonal adventures when the seasons become as messed-up as my kitchen! Summer has recently fallen out of the sky, crushing the end of winter and taking over for spring. This unsettles me not a little. It’s as hot as July, but the typical May and June foods haven’t even been planted let alone harvested. One hardly even knows what to eat!

I was in denial about this uncomfortable phenomenon, but I’ve finally begun to adjust. I got out the grill, dared to plant some arugula and mesclun lettuce mix in pots, and compromised my local food principles (it’s not the first time, nor will it be the last) by buying some asparagus, which I usually wait for until May or June. Since the salad weather was upon me, whether I was ready or not, I used some of this asparagus in a brown and wild rice salad. I also tossed in some frozen peas, nice fresh parsley and green onions (aka scallions), and topped it all off with a simple lemon vinaigrette.

I love wild rice, and the brown basmati rice I used with it here is a good partner. The dressing is quite tart (you could adjust it to taste), but the starchiness of the brown rice, grassy, tea-like notes of the wild rice, and the sweetness of the peas and asparagus all hold up under it well. This whole salad also holds up well in the refrigerator for a couple days, and it’s nice to have its springtime, whole-food goodness waiting for me when the heat (yes, heat!…in March! Minnesota!) makes me want a lazy lunch or side dish for supper.

This kind of salad is wide open to many improvisations, and you can customize it based on whatever you have available. White beans, Parmesan or feta cheese, and toasted almonds would all be good to add, and you could experiment with other herbs. As the seasons progress (if they even remember how to do so properly), you could switch in other vegetables like green beans, sugar snap peas, radishes, zucchini, cucumbers…well, it seems like I’m getting in the right mindset after all. Maybe I am ready for an early spring, or summer, or whatever this is.

…and I’ll spare you my commentary on global climate change.

Brown and Wild Rice Salad with Asparagus and Peas

4 ounces asparagus spears
1 cup cooked and cooled brown rice
1 cup cooked and cooled wild rice
½ cup frozen peas, thawed (or fresh peas if you have them)
¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
3 scallions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
a pinch or a few grinds black pepper
1 teaspoon honey

1. Break or cut the tough ends off the bottom of the asparagus spears. Cut the spears into 1-1 ½ inch pieces. Place the pieces in small microwave-safe bowl or baking dish. Add a splash of water to the dish and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Poke several holes in the plastic wrap. (This will allow steam to escape while cooking.)

2. Microwave on high power 2 minutes. Very carefully (the steam will come gushing out) remove the plastic wrap from the bowl and place the cooked asparagus in a colander or sieve. Run cold water over the asparagus to cool it. Drain well and place in a large bowl.

3. To the asparagus, add the brown rice, wild rice, peas, parsley, and scallions.

4. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Whisk together until well blended and smooth. Alternatively, you could combine the dressing ingredients in a small jar and shake vigorously to blend.

5. Pour the dressing over the asparagus mixture and toss to coat and evenly distribute the ingredients. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.

Makes 4-6 servings. Cover and refrigerate leftovers.

Other recipes like this one: Barley and Wild Rice Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette, Three Grain Salad with White Beans and Artichokes, Spring Vegetable Tabbouleh

Two years ago: Dark Rye Bread

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