Natural life cycles in nature, or seasons, yield all kinds of delicious diversity in food! This not only helps the earth to replenish and balance itself out, but when we consume foods that are just naturally grown in the current season, we can also be more in tune with nature’s natural rhythms.
Spring presents the opportune moment to stop, smell the flowers and appreciate everything growing and rejuvenating around you. And Easter is a great opportunity to make use of spring produce in your meals or holiday spread.
If you’re an avid home cook like me, if you’ve most likely already heard about the wide range of benefits of eating not only seasonally, but locally. Seasonal produce tends to be more nutrient-dense and is often more readily available in your area or at local farm stands and markets because it doesn’t have to travel as far from international countries.
Although we’ve talked about sustainability with the importance of eating organically, it’s also crucial to make sure you’re supporting local farmers and growers. Food that is harvested at the peak of freshness retains maximum nutrient content. So, when your food doesn’t have to travel as far, it not only benefits local workers, but it benefits you and the community.
If you don’t have as much fresh produce locally or if you just want to make fewer trips to the store, plant your own backyard, rooftop or balcony garden. Herbs are especially perfect for growing at home. I keep mine in smaller pots and can easily place them in a windowsill or another area as they don’t require as much light as my other larger plants, like tomatoes.
For me, spring is the universal season representing a new start with fresh and vibrant colors and delicious flavors with fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs. So, what better way to celebrate all of these new and light ingredients than to share them with family and friends for an Easter holiday meal!
I’ll take you through my favorite spring produce and a few of my exquisite side dishes using fruits, vegetables and herbs, so you can experience an incredible Easter meal spread.
A few of my favorite green vegetables that grow in spring include leafy arugula, swiss chard, fennel, artichoke, asparagus, watercress, scallions, and other onion-like variations such as shallots.
I enjoy pairing whole grains with green onions and asparagus for this Brown Rice Shiitake Pilaf. This recipe is made with one of my top-grain choices - RiceSelect® Texmati® Brown Rice. It’s pleasantly aromatic and made from an agricultural hybridization of long-grain brown rice and basmati rice, to add a distinguishing touch to the classic rice pilaf.
Mixing greens and other herbs together is a great way to add a refreshing touch to any meal. This Couscous and Swiss Chard Tabbouleh is made with swiss chard and a mix of fresh parsley and mint for zesty and light salad.
If you simply can’t choose which greens to go with, my preference is to serve an elegant spread so guests can Create Their Own Rice Bowl. It gives everyone the opportunity to choose the ingredients they like best, including other seasonal favorites like avocado, peas and herbs all atop fluffy RiceSelect® Texmati® White Rice. My secret is to also include fruits like mango for a dash of color and flavor.
Herbs and Flowers
If you’re interested in homegrown spring herbs, start with: basil, thyme, rosemary, cilantro, green onions, parsley, mint, dill or microgreens.
One way I like to give my dishes a finished look is by cooking and decorating with spring flowers such as dandelions, marigolds, zucchini blossoms and lavender. This Spring Greens Risotto is made with a few green vegetables like sugar snap peas and a homemade dandelion basil pesto that offers rich and complex flavors that are sure to please!
This Green Goddess Salad with Pearl Couscous will give any spread a burst of freshness made with a rich and tangy Greek yogurt dressing with parsley, basil and other plants that lend the springtime perfume of fine herbs.
There are certain stone fruits that are at their very best in spring rather than summer: apricots and cherries.
Apricots can be found easily in spring and are an excellent choice for adding a sweet touch to accompany any savory meal. This Iranian-inspired Jeweled Rice with Dried Fruit and Nuts looks and tastes as though it were meant for royalty. With gem-stone-like fruits and nuts including orange zest, dried apricots that seemed to be placed perfectly atop fragrant Texmati® White Rice, it makes for an incredibly eye-catching dish with perfectly balanced flavors.
While this may come as a shock to some, for those of us who enjoy learning about food and its origins, we know that avocado is botanically a large fruit with one seed. Its versatility knows no bounds, and its freshness is highest in spring.
There is something special about the simplicity of sliced avocado over toast or by itself. However, as a home chef, I love the challenge of trying something new with everyday ingredients. And, when the occasion calls for it, I take full advantage of each ingredient like in these Couscous Avocado Boats or an elegant Quinoa Avocado and Citrus Salad.
Tip: For an incredible presentation, use a round or square mold to help your salad hold its shape for a professional-looking touch to each plate.
Citrus and Acidic Fruits
Citrus fruits are more than a sweet snack, they have the power to give any meal a touch of necessary acidity to balance out the flavor and enhance any dish. A few that are cultivated in spring include kiwi, lime, lemon, orange or mandarins, grapefruit, and pineapple.
Fresh off of the tree, use lemons along with fresh mint and butter to make this Lemon Couscous pair perfectly with home-cooked lamb shanks and give yourself a reason to celebrate.
Serve up a bit of spontaneous brilliance for your next meal! I always depend on RiceSelect® to help me get the job done with quality ingredients that automatically enhance every meal I make. I think of cooking as an experience that ought to be shared! Let’s stay connected through @riceselect on Instagram for some shared wisdom and unforgettable meals.