The first were handed over with a shy smile, and were clutched in my still winter-numb hands like precious amber and citrine nuggets. The next week as I exclaimed over the wondrous flavour of the previous week’s bounty, the smile grew wider. Summer bloomed, and brought with it more fragrant delights, tiny jewels moved from amber and citrine to garnet and deepest ruby. Firm, tart, and spring sharp melted with the lengthening hours of sunshine and became plump, ripened, and strained against their skin with sweet juices. The smiles grew wider too, and laughter followed.
Sadly, summer came to an end, and the final harvest was mourned and celebrated: a ritual to fortify me with sunshine through the winter, until the new spring breezes blew fair weather our way again. But the smiles lasted through winter, through chapped mornings, and windy weather, freezing rain and hurried, scurried, greetings and partings. The smiles were the summer harvest that never had to end.
This week the spring wind danced through the city streets, the sun stayed longer and longer in the sky, and the cold left only traces of itself in the wee hours of morning. A bright smile lit my face this week when I noticed the spring bounty atop the rickety wooden table. A sign taped below read: ‘hand-picked yesterday at our farm in Beaudesert’ – complete with pictures of my summer/winter friends out in the fields. I lined up with the other eager faces, sort of like mine but without the ebullient appreciation I must verbalise for how much I enjoy the produce, and how happy I am to see little amber and garnet gems appearing again.
I smile, and receive smiles in return. I claim two punnets as my own. My friend empties in half the contents of a third, and adds two gleaming Granny Smith apples to the bag. ‘Just for you’ she says, with another smile.
Spring is here.
Tomato, butter bean, and brown rice salad
The best way to enjoy new season grape tomatoes, or if you can’t find these gems try cherry tomatoes. When winter meets spring I always get a taste for things with a little more acidity, the clean, sharp tastes seem to strip away some of the cloying richness of winter foods and leave my taste buds ready to experience the delicate flavours of spring, and their promise of summer’s richer bounty. Here, I have used lemon juice to sharpen the flavour of the salad, and peppery rocket to lift the rich brown rice. You can use milder baby spinach if you prefer.
This serves 2.
- 3/4 cup brown rice
- 1 cup grape tomatoes
- 1 can of butter beans (or other white beans such as cannellini), drained
- 2 spring onions
- Large handful of rocket leaves
- 8 oil-packed semi-dried tomatoes
- 8 large black olives
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil (I use the oil the tomatoes are packed in)
- Large pinch each of ground black pepper and salt
- Large punch of dried oregano
- Place rice in a saucepan and cover with 2 1/2 cups of water. Bring to the boil over medium heat, uncovered. Once it has reached boiling point, turn the heat down and cover with saucepan lid. Simmer for 20 minutes. Then, turn off the heat and allow rice to sit for another 10 minutes while you prepare the rest of the salad.
- Wash tomatoes, and then slice in half lengthwise. Rinse butter beans until water runs clear, drain well. Slice spring onions including most of the upper parts of the green stems. Dice the semi-dried tomatoes and pit and dice the olives.
- In a large bowl combine halved tomatoes, butter beans, spring onions, semi-dried tomatoes, and olives. Add rocket leaves.
- For the dressing: in a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and dried oregano. Add to the salad mixture.
- Spoon rice into the salad mixture, and gently toss the whole salad together.
If you are dining solo, the left overs make a lovely lunch or dinner the next day. I like to add a little steamed broccoli on the second day, or some corn kernels. Enjoy.
I am planning on sharing my favourite salads as we head into summer here in Australia.
Tell me dear reader, do you have a favourite salad ingredient? Mine is obviously fresh tomatoes!