This side dish tastes as refreshing as it looks, and can easily move from lunch to dinner.
We’ve been experiencing a heat wave here in Vermont, and we’ve seen lots of sun! The gardens are growing like crazy with our long hours of daylight, and everyone is eating a lot of veggies!
Local summer squash has made its way to our tables; these bright little fruits are one of my favorites. It is tempting to put a collection of sunny looking vegetables together, and there are so many yellow, orange, and red delights to be gathered, you might need to wear shades while cooking. I found some lovely sunburst peppers at the market this week, and they gave me the initial idea for this colorful salad.
If you don’t want to add peppers or potatoes, you can add other seasonal veggies, wax beans, yellow cucumbers, whatever you find that is sunny and cheery. Citrus boosts the bright taste, and the little pops of preserved lemons add a lovely texture and surprise.
Sunny Saffron the star
But saffron is the star here, both for its color and unique flowery flavor. Just don’t get carried away and add too much, or it will lean toward the medicinal. My brother and I always gave each other little tins of saffron for our birthdays, so this spice has a special place in my heart. If you don’t have any saffron, you can substitute a big pinch of turmeric; it won’t taste the same, but visually will add some color, as well as a delicious anti-inflammatory bonus.
While the grill is hot…
We’re all grilling this time of year, and if you plan to make this dish, toss on a few extra veggies to save; this step will add a lovely smoky flavor to the dish. However, if it is raining, you can simply steam them all lightly.
Food is fun
While this recipe calls for fresh corn cut off the cob, if it is not in season, it is better to substitute frozen. The preserved lemon might be hard to find, so if it’s not available just leave it out, there really is no substitute.
Loaded with texture, this dish is both a salad and a side, and is packed with nutrition. My large cherries were quite plump, so I had some extra juice in this which was fine with me! It is fun to eat, warm or cold! Put it in little lettuce cups for a starter, or just eat a bowl for lunch. It makes a great filling for a summer roll, or even a tortilla. You can dress it up for a full dinner meal by topping with a toasted tempeh, chickpeas, or other protein, or, you can use it to top some pasta. You can even stuff squash blossoms with it as well! It tastes even better the next day!
This is also a great side to pack for a picnic, or bring to a socially-distanced summer outing!
Sunburst Summer Squash Salad
- 1/4 tsp. saffron
- 2 tbsp. boiling water
- 2 cups cooked corn, grilled if possible
- 1 lb. yellow summer squash, steamed or grilled lightly
- 1/2 yellow or orange pepper, steamed or grilled lightly
- 1 Yukon Gold or other yellow-fleshed potato, small dice
- 1/2 preserved lemon, minced, 2 tbsp.
- Zest and juice of one lemon
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup minced sweet onion
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tbsp. honey or agave syrup
- 1 lb. yellow or orange cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
- Few splashes of hot sauce
- Toasted cashews, chopped, optional
- Yellow squash flowers, optional
Pour two tablespoons of boiling water over the saffron and set aside.
Prep your vegetables. Cut the corn from the cobs, you should have about two cups. Make a small dice of the summer squash and ready in a steamer basket along with the pepper. Make a similar size dice of the potato and place in a small pot of cold water. Quarter any large tomatoes, and halve any small ones, and set aside.
Bring the potatoes to boil with a bit of salt and cook just until done, around 6 minutes and drain.
Place the potatoes, corn, squash, and peppers in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper, and mix well.
Cut the preserved lemon half in half again and remove the pulp and discard it. A grapefruit spoon works well here. Rinse off the excess salt, mince, and add to the bowl along with the lemon juice and zest. Mix again and add salt and pepper to taste.
Heat the olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the onions. Sauté just until they soften a bit and add the garlic, honey, the saffron and its liquid, scraping every bit out. Add the tomatoes and cook for about four minutes, or until the tomatoes start to loose their juices and thicken everything. Season with salt and pepper.
Add everything to the vegetables, shake in a bit of hot sauce if you like, mix well, taste, and season again.
Plate and add the crunchy cashews if using, and adorn with summer squash blossoms or other edible yellow flowers to celebrate the season.
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