Remember last week, when I crowed about summer finally arriving in Southern Ontario? Well, little did I know that that single day would constitute the entire season! As of this week, we’re waking up to a distinct chill under ever-darkening skies; there’s condensation on my car windows when I slip into the driver’s seat; and the air has that crisp, hollow clarity that seems to catapult sounds exponentially, even across mountains (not that there are any mountains in our little suburb, of course, but you get the idea).
Huh? Where did our summer go this year?
This type of weather always brings to mind a course in oil painting I took back in tenth grade (my brain tends to free associate that way). With my high school art teacher’s encouragement and visions of a really hip garret in my mind, I rode the Number 17 bus across town for an hour each way every Thursday evening to sit at my easel and soak up instruction about rendering depth, shadows, perspective. . . and to paint nude models. Yep, this little 15 year-old moi was mighty shocked, I must confess, at the cavalier nature with which those women threw off their cover sheets and posed in any variety of positions for us novice painters (as I recall, I came down with a cold the evening of the male model class. . .but in reality, I was probably too freaked out to attend. Ah, sweet and innocent youth!).
One of the things I loved most about oil painting was the pigments themselves, the linimint smell and gooey texture, and the magical, musical names by which they were known: Burnt Umber. Burnt Sienna. Cerulean Blue. Cadmium Red. Cadmium Yellow. Yellow Ochre. I loved the cadences in the sounds and the appearance of the hues just out of the tubes–deep, intense versions of the real-life counterparts (sort of like using super-saturation when you doctor your blog photos–except real!). For some reason (perhaps the fact that I was born in the fall), the warming reds, oranges and yellows were most appealing to me, and I often painted with those.
Suddenly, all around our neighborhood are reminders of my foray into oil painting: amid the remnants of green, the trees are beginning to sport their fall finery, festooned with splashes of ochre, rust and crimson, all vying for prominence on the branches.
So when I served dinner to a couple of old friends last night, I thought this warm summer salad would be perfect. Leaning heavily on the emeralds of June and July, highlighted with the yellows of August and September, this dish bridges the short divide between summer and fall as the weather extends its first chilly grip (or would that be grippe?) on Ontario’s resentful denizens.
Remember that high school reunion I attended back in May? Well, ever since then, I’ve planned to get together with my old friend The Poet. The Poet (so named because he penned the poem that graced our yearbook’s cover page) and I were best buds back in high school and through our undergraduate years. He helped me survive those boyfriendless undergraduate years without feeling like too much of a social outcast, by providing a Saturday night perma-date. A contemplative, sensitive soul, TP could also be uproariously funny and always cracked me up.
Eventually, we lost touch. We had neither seen nor heard from each other until the reunion. Just as Sterlin and I were loitering around the hotel lobby after checkin, I heard a distinctive bellow: “Ricki Heller, I’d recognize you anywhere!” and turned to see none other than TP. (On one hand, I was flattered to hear this; I suppose it means I look sort of the same as I did in high school. On the other hand, I was a bit aggrieved to hear this. I mean, do I look the same as I did in high school??).
And while many of us that weekend promised to get together once we were back in the city, I really meant it when I vowed to contact The Poet again. And so, last evening, he and another old high school chum came to dinner.
This dish was one of the dinner’s highlights. Also featured were a terrific leafy green salad with roasted peppers and “goat cheese” (recipe anon); herbed sweet potato fries; raw almond-veggie pâté; and (for me) herbed walnut burgers (another recipe I’ll post soon) plus salmon for the guys. For dessert, I served the chocolate layer cake with chocolate buttercream frosting from Sweet Freedom** and filled it with sweet potato buttercream (a huge hit).
I based this recipe very loosely on one I came across in the Australia Women’s Weekly Vegetarian Cookbook, a salad called “Hot Spinach and Pea Salad” (even though the actual recipe lists chard, not spinach, in the ingredients!). Since I am wont to wax poetic about all things antipodean (I know, it’s more like, “wax pathetic”), it makes sense I’d veer toward this dish. But I’ve made so many changes to the original, I consider it entirely mine now.
The salad can be served warm or at room temperature (I actually prefer the latter) and features a truly resplendent display of autumnal greens and golds. The flavors are mild and pleasing, without a sharp sting of garlic or spice; just a flavorsome combination of Asian seasonings, just-soft zucchini, crunchy, juicy beans and plump, sweet peas.
Best of all, it only takes 10 minutes to make–so you can still run outside and catch the last few rays of that elusive summer sun.
**For those of you who have the hard-copy book, be sure to check the correction here!
Gold and Green Warm Summer Salad
A warm, filling dish that can help you through the transition from summer to autumn. You can use edamame in place of the peas if you’d like to boost the protein for a main dish.
1 Tbsp (15 ml) sesame seeds, toasted
1 Tbsp (15 ml) unrefined coconut oil, preferably organic
1 clove garlic, minced
6 collard leaves, shredded
1 medium (250 g) yellow zucchini (summer squash)
2 cups (480 ml) fresh green beans, cut in half
1 cup (240 ml) fresh or frozen peas or shelled edamame, thawed
2 Tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
1 Tbsp (15 ml) fresh lemon juice
1 tsp (5 ml) freshly grated ginger
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot or cast-iron skillet, melt the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and collard and sauté until greens are wilted. Add the zucchini, beans and peas and cook another 2-3 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, Bragg’s, lemon juice and ginger. Pour the mixture over the vegetables in the pan and cook another 2-3 minutes, until warmed through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with sesame seeds just before serving. Makes 4 servings. May be frozen.
Suitable for: ACD Stage 3 and beyond (All stages if edamame is used instead of peas); refined sugar-free, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, egg free, nut free, yeast-free, vegan, low glycemic.
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