Squash and Golden Beet Salad: A Soliloquy to Yellow
The folding of time seems to become looser in the golden days of late summer. The rush of spring is long gone and the heavy heat forces us to slow down, to rest, to lay in that dappled glowing light and fade into nostalgia. Dust motes dance in the long sunbeams, bewitching you into a trance. At once you’re a small child, watching the same abstract patterns forming in front of your young eyes, then you’re transported to memories of those same golden orbs gracing your vision as you bask by the lake as a teenager. The slow, eerie, golden light of the dog days of summer is a constant, it’s a way to traverse the years until they blend together in the hazy heat to form one beautiful, soft, yellow moment outside the chronology of time.
Summertime holds such sweet stillness. A stillness that's still busy: methodical plucking and slow picking. The sound of berries hitting the bottom of a pail and the flutter of pollinators visiting banks of flowers. We pluck soft summer squash and its delicate blossoms, cultivated in this region for at least 10,000 years (one of the oldest-known crops.) Our process feels timeless. It’s the start of the harvest season but we do not yet rush to work; we exist in those golden moments working slowly but with purpose, lost in the sunbeams and dust motes.
Do you ever have one of those days that just feels yellow? The warm colors on the inside of your eyelids as you lay in the sun, the little white specks that sparkle on your eyelashes when you squint. The softness of a beach towel on the sand and the sparkling on the lake. The cattail pollen wafting in the wind, the yellow mustard on your bbq'd hot dog, the sound of bluegrass music carried to you in the heavy air. Ah, summer.
Gold is the color of the dog days of summer, when the hillsides are shimmering with dried grass and punctuated with spots of yellow flowers. Gold is the color of sun rays and honey dripping from hands and fingers. Gold is the metallic shimmer of a rippling lake during those magical sunset moments when it transforms from water into liquid gold, then back to water again.
And with the arrival of summer gold, the buzzing vibrancy of summer begins to give way to a slow, stagnant expression of the space leading up to fall. A colloidal fog of heavy smoke-laden air glows a strange cadmium yellow. (After all, forest fires are a natural part of late summer here in the west.) The tall trees are shadow-less in this amber atmosphere. Everything is Slow. Thick. Heavy.
Don’t fight that slow golden softness. Let it envelop you, lose yourself for a little bit in the nostalgia that those gentle folds of time deliver to you, like wrapping yourself in a soft sunshine blanket. Take a lesson from the sprawling squash plants and learn to spread out in the dappled shade of taller crops and get close to the earth. Treat yourself like you would a child - plenty of rest and time for play mixed into the rhythm of work. Treat yourself, too, to edible sunbeams in the form of an easy-to-prepare and delightfully nourishing late summer salad. But don’t hurry to make this; stay slow and focused on the beauty of vibrant golden vegetables and piquant flower petals. Let the colors dance on the plate in front of you. Savor the sweetness of late summer.
This salad is comprised of a base of golden beets and summer squash. Roasted pine nuts add a little crunch while marigold petals give it a slightly-spicy kick, perfectly balanced by the citrus-juniper vinaigrette drizzled over the top. The flavors in this salad come from freshly-blooming herbaceous flowers as well as preserved pine nuts and juniper berries from last year’s harvests. A little here, a little there, a slow and gentle kind of foraging suited to summer’s slow pace.
3 medium golden beets
3 small summer squash or yellow zuchinni
3 Tbs. olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 c. shelled pine nuts
zest of one orange
1/3 c. freshly-squeezed orange juice
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. juniper-infused olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
fresh marigold and calendula petals
2-3 squash blossoms cut into ribbons.
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Peel the beets and slice them into 1/4” slices. Transfer the slices to a parchment-lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, slice the summer squash into 1/4” slices and toss with olive oil. Roast beets 10 minutes, then add the summer squash and go another 10 minutes. While the beets and squash are roasting, toast the pine nuts in a hot pan until lightly browned and fragrant. Remove to a cool plate to cool.
- Whisk together the orange juice and zest, cider vinegar, salt, and juniper olive oil.
- Arrange the beet and squash slices attractively on a platter. Sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Sprinkle with fresh marigold and calendula petals and ribbons of squash blossoms and serve warm or cold.
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