It happens to me every year. Sometime about the end of June, when our CSA is in full swing and the daylight’s stretching past 8 p.m., I marvel at the sweetness of the season around me, so hot and bright…
I realize that the holidays of television specials are not, for most people, the holidays of reality. Travel is stressful; family is complicated; people have magazine expectations for non-magazine life, and those magazine expectations tend to hurt when they’re crushed. One of the best and worst parts about family is that you don’t get to pick who they are—You don’t get to pick parents who are super interested in your life or siblings who like all the things you do. You don’t get to pick aunts and uncles who know you’re vegan or gluten-free and are willing to accommodate that when you share your annual Thanksgiving meal. You might see a salad like this one at the end of November and think you want to add it to the holiday meal, but you’re not allowed to help; you might see a salad like this one and wish someone else would make it, but you’re the one already managing the long list. Going into the holiday season, for many people, confronts feelings you probably don’t want to have, and so sometimes you think it might be easier to stay home, or at least to tell the other people to; I know.
The main reason I am posting this recipe is because the Napa cabbage we’ve been getting in our farm share lately has convinced me there is no prettier vegetable on earth. From those lacy leaves to that ombre green color, Napa cabbage is seriously stunning. I don’t often pick up a vegetable simply because it looks nice—I mean, there was that one time—but if I were going to start doing it again, Napa would be the one. It’s a star. And talking about Napa cabbage’s beauty is worth talking about because, as far as lists go, Prettiest Vegetables is probably one of the only ones it’d make. I mean, when was the last time you ordered Napa cabbage at a restaurant? Received it on your plate when dining in the home of friends? Looked twice at it in the produce section and brought it home? What do you think about Napa cabbage, if you’ve tried it? Has it registered as something worth shouting about? The thing about Napa cabbage is, despite its curb appeal, it’s still cabbage. Roughage. A colon cleanser. That brings me to the second reason I am posting this recipe: It’s a good one for cleaning things out (and I don’t mean from your refrigerator).
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Two days ago on our morning walk, Tim and I put on sweatshirts. Yesterday, I pulled out my boots for the first time since May. Today, the window’s open in the bathroom, and even from the next room over, I can smell the fresh air and feel a cool breeze coming in (the high today in Nashville was 72 degrees). What’s more, down the hall and in the kitchen, the oven is on, and I have a pot filled with root vegetables boiling on the stove. Fall is here, officially and obviously, and I’ve been dressing, eating and, what I’m trying to say, I guess, is enjoying this new season, even when it means summer’s gone.
But before we get too deep in changing leaves, could I get one last hurrah for summer? I hate to say it as a lifelong October lover, but sometimes I’m nostalgic for the season that ends (besides winter). And while I was all set to pack away this late summer squash recipe for next year, our Monday CSA pickup brought a few more of the yellow squash we’ve been seeing the last few weeks. So I thought maybe you wouldn’t mind if I slipped this late summer squash quinoa dish in? You could, of course, swap out the yellow squash with a nice winter one, cubed and roasted with oil until it’s caramelized. You could, also, decide to go elsewhere for a recipe featuring pumpkin or apples. I’ll understand.
For now, here’s a quinoa dish we enjoyed before the temperatures dropped and the days shortened. It’s a reminder of the beauty that was, even as we walk forward into the beauty that is and the kind that is to come.