Sun Medallion Pasta with Walnut and Dandelion To Honor The Solstice Sun
The Summer Solstice marks the point in the year when masculine energy is at its height. While the depth of winter, water, the moon and her cycles, and nighttime are associated with the feminine, the height of summer, fire, the sun, and daytime are generally considered to be more masculine. This isn’t meant in a literal, gendered way but rather as a more energetic, symbolic way (think of yin and yang energies, for example.) This time of year is a reminder that balance is important, no matter your gender. While winter’s energy calls us to be nurturing, gentle, and soft with ourselves and spend plenty of time snuggled up eating cozy food and reflecting on our inner worlds, summer’s energy is all about adventure - about pushing yourself to try something new, take a trip outside your comfort zone, and get outside! These differing energies also appear to us on a smaller scale as well: no matter what time it is during the year, it’s good to be aware of what you need to feel good. Sometimes we need a soft, gentle, rose-filled ultra feminine day, and other days we need a fortifying, nutrient-rich, ultra masculine meal to fuel us for some grand adventures. Neither is better than the other; just different. What does today feel like for you?
For ancient cultures all over the world, this masculine energy was celebrated through ceremonies honoring the sun on the longest day of the year. Some communities in Europe would gather together and feast, then light a wheel on fire and roll it down a hill to represent the waning pattern of the sun over the coming months. Their choice of a spoked wheel was significant as well. In fact, similar imagery shows up throughout history as a cross or star pattern inside a circle. It’s found in the symbolism of prehistoric cultures as far back as the Neolithic era, when it appeared on many sacred or cult artifacts throughout Europe and parts of Asia. It’s been interpreted as the wheel of the chariot of the Sun god, and sometimes is even seen as the wheel of a large ship sailing through the stars. A symbol with bent arms that looks similar to a swastika was a popular depiction of the sun in German paganism (note that this was long before World War II, when that symbol came to represent something else entirely.)
Similarly, the Native American people of the Americas used circle and spoke imagery in their depictions of the sun as well. The “Zia” symbol is a circle with a cross of lines intersecting it, as though a circle is placed in front of a cross made out of three layers of lines. It often represents healing energy or a giver of life and warmth. The exact meanings and style of these symbols varied in different tribes or cultural groups, but almost always represented the life-giving power of the sun. They, too, celebrated on the Summer Solstice through ceremonial dances and feasts.
And what would a celebration be without some delicious foods? Common in many cultures are round cakes or breads with a cross cut into the top baked in honor of the sun. These “sun breads” in Nordic countries were baked with honey and were believed to bring fertility and abundance to the fields and the people. Some old recipes even called for the addition of midsummer dew to impart magical healing powers to the bread. I thought it would be appropriate to honor the sun in a similar way, pulling on another ancient culinary tradition: that of beautiful stamped pastas called “corzetti” from Italy’s northwestern region of Liguria. These medallions are both beautiful and delicious. Their embossed designs allow them to hold onto flavorings and sauces, and they were a canvas for custom designs (they often featured the crest of noble families during the Renaissance, for example.) The dough is flavored with white wine and sometimes perfumed with herbs, which release a beautiful fragrance as the pasta cooks. What a perfect jumping-off point for a hearty midsummer meal!
While corzetti are usually prepared with special wooden molds designed just for making them, it’s pretty easy to create beautiful designs using tools you have around your kitchen - pastry cutters, pastry tips, chopsticks, and even dried pasta shapes used as a stamp. This way you can make plenty of varied designs and interpretations of sun wheels, and even let younger family members design their own works of art.
My version of these medallion-shaped pastas is a lovely golden hue, thanks to the addition of fresh dandelion petals (how better to honor the sun?) These special coins sit on a hearty green bed of walnut pesto. Walnuts feel like very masculine trees to me and have the fortifying oils to give one plenty of energy for a long night of partying (or a long day of foraging.) You can use just about any herbs you’d like in this pesto; basil is the traditional choice but dandelion leaves, parsley, a bit of sage, or any other herbs work as well! Finally, this delicious dinner gets a contemporary twist and some added texture with buttery soft avocado slices and crunchy toasted walnuts. Yum.
1/3 c. raw walnuts
1 garlic clove
2 c. wild greens and herbs - basil and dandelion leaves are wonderful, as well as sage
1 1/2 Tbs. lemon juice
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
sea salt to taste
- Toast walnuts in a hot cast iron pan until fragrant and lightly browned. Let cool. (Be sure to make a few extra for plating your pasta!)
- Meanwhile, grate the garlic clove into a small dish and top with the lemon juice to sit for a couple of minutes.
- While the walnuts are cooling, add the herbs to a blender or food processor and blend until the leaves have broken up. Then, add the lemon juice and olive oil and blend until it becomes a paste.
- Add the parmesan, toasted walnuts, and sea salt to the food processor. Pulse until the mixture is blended and the nuts are broken into the size of small breadcrumbs. Refrigerate pesto until ready for use.
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3 egg yolks
1/3 c. white wine
1 Tbs. oil
1 pinch salt
1/4 c. dandelion petals
- In a high speed blender, combine the dandelion petals, white wine, and oil and blend until very smooth.
- Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, then make a well in the center and add the rest of the ingredients. Whisk the mixture, gradually incorporating the flour into it. You should have a nice stiff dough. If the dough is crumbly, add a bit more wine to bring it together. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
- Using a pasta roller or a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to 1 mm thick.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and unroll a little at the time to keep the rest of it moist while you work. Emboss designs into it with various kitchen tools and utensils, then cut them out with a round pastry cutter. Place finished medallions on a clean kitchen towel - it’s okay if they dry out a bit while you finish the rest.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the corzetti in the boiling water until al dente (about 4 minutes.) Drain and toss with a bit of olive oil.
1/4 c. fresh whole walnuts, toasted
1 avocado, sliced into thin slices
Cooked corzetti, hot
fresh greens and/or dandelion petals, if desired
1. Place a small scoop of pesto into a shallow bowl. Top with the pasta medallions, toasted walnuts, and avocado slices. Garnish with fresh greens and dandelion petals and serve with a bit of lemon on the side.
I hope you enjoy this hearty and beautiful dish to honor the masculine and energy-giving powers of the sun! Pair this dinner with a dry mead for an extra level of summery sunniness. If you've enjoyed this post, please consider contributing to my patreon page, where you can pledge a set amount of your choosing every month to help me afford the materials needed to write this blog. :)