I finally took the plunge! I joined my fellow fresh food lovers and signed up for a CSA share (Community Supported Agriculture) from nearby Brenckle’s Farm in Zelienople, PA. When I first heard about CSAs, I liked the idea but was skeptical of its value and convenience in my life. But when I got to talk to members of the Brenckle family at a recent CSA fair in Pittsburgh, I wanted to support their business from that day on. My original worries were quickly negated when I received my first basket last week and ooohed and ahhhed over the colorful bounty. For just over $20 per basket, Brenckle’s CSA members receive a variety of organic produce and value added products, delivered right to their door (or at least very close for an easy pick-up).
In my late spring basket, I received a huge head of lettuce, a bunch each of beets and radishes, big bags of spinach and arugula, chives, garlic scapes, and kohlrabi. I also got half a dozen free-range eggs (yum!) and a pint of THE BEST STRAWBERRIES EVER! I have never gone strawberry picking or eaten truly farm fresh strawberries, so I could not get over the juicy sweetness of these little red gems. After I emptied the basket’s contents and stocked my fridge, I literally stood over the sink, individually rinsing and devouring these just picked, pesticide-free berries. I am still dreaming about them.
Armed with several seasonal recipes from Wild Flavors, a book about “one chef’s transformative year cooking from Eva’s farm,” and my overflowing basket of farm fresh goodies, I set out to create a light, healthy and produce-rich dish. While sifting through nearly a hundred recipes and quirky anecdotes about an even quirkier lady (Eva of Eva’s farm), I stopped at the “Spring” section of the book, hoping to make good use of my ingredients. I found the perfect recipe in “Wild Rice, Arugula, and Parsley Salad.” I wanted to feature the bunch of arugula I received because, one, I’ve never used arugula before – tasted, yes, prepared with, no – and the other reason was because I had a lot of arugula to use up! I was also happy to see that I could include some of the spinach from my basket and those flavorful and colorful strawberries.
I appreciated that author Didi Simmons explained in the recipe’s introductory blurb that the chef can substitute herbs and greens based on what they have, and the recipe will still turn out great. I took that reasoning a few steps further, substituting brown rice for the wild variety, dates for raisins, and canola oil for olive because these were things I already had, and I really need to clean out my pantry! So I present to you a modified version of Didi’s farm fresh, springtime recipe. Feel free to use it for your own CSA-inspired creation!
Brown Rice, Arugula, and Strawberry Salad
(adapted from Didi Simmons’ “Wild Rice, Arugula, and Parsley Salad” in Wild Flavors)
1 cup brown rice
1/3 cup Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
4 cups Arugula leaves, torn
1 cup strawberries, sliced
¼ cup red onion, minced
1 cup spinach, chopped
3 Tbs. canola oil
1/8 cup lemon juice
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and follow directions for brown rice, about 45 minutes at a simmer. Stir in the chopped dates when rice is almost tender and let simmer for 2-3 more minutes. Rinse the rice, draining it under cold running water until it is cool. Let dry in the strainer for 5 minutes.
- While the rice is cooking, combine arugula, strawberries, onion, spinach, oil and lemon juice in a large bowl. Add the brown rice and dates, stir well, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve cold or at room temperature.