Recipe: Summer Squash Salad

At the beginning of this summer, I set one goal for myself: to spend time enjoying simple pleasures. I have succeeded magnificently.

I have picnicked and barbecued. I have seen a craft project through to completion. I spent a delightful evening with new friends repurposing old books into luminaries for a wedding centerpiece. I have baked many pies and eaten them. I danced with my friend at her beautiful wedding, and the joy, pure and so palpable, has stuck with me all week.

Summer is an easy time to revel in simplicity, especially when it comes to food. All my favorite things are in season – tomatoes, apricots, rhubarb, basil, and, above all else, avocado, which is the one produce item I’ll buy year-round, no matter how out-of-season it is, no matter how many miles it traveled on a truck to reach me. I just can’t help myself.

To take full advantage of the bounty that’s available this time of year, one needs to visit a farmer’s market. So this past Friday, Silver and I trekked across the city to an amazing old open-air market (founded in 1779!), where we bought some just-picked peaches, the last rhubarb of the season, a bunch of super-skinny, tender asparagus, and a sweet yellow summer squash.

Often there’s an air of snobbery surrounding the buying and selling of fruits and vegetables. I should know – I come from the snobbery capital of the U.S., Northern California. Farmer’s markets are plentiful there, and at each of them you’ll find the same crowd: young to middle-aged white people, toting canvas shopping bags from Whole Foods and wearing Birkenstocks, looking for the perfect heirloom tomato. To the untrained eye, these look like hippie status symbols, but really they’re symbols of wealth. We Californians shop at farmer’s markets not because the food is fresh and local and cheap, but because shopping there is part of our foodie identity.

Not so in the Midwest. Some people shop at this market to support the local economy; some shop here because they sell the tastiest, freshest produce around; and some shop here because it’s cheap and the vendors accept food stamps. Conspicuously absent: any sense of pretension, of self-importance, of snobbery.

Here’s something else that lacks snobbery altogether. It’s a delicious and unexpected combination of flavors and textures, and it has avocado in it. As Ina would say, how bad can that be?

Summer Squash Salad (serves 2)
1 sweet yellow summer squash
1 ripe avocado
balsamic vinegar
fruit for garnish (strawberry or orange, or whatever you like)

Peel and grate the summer squash. Top with thick slices of avocado. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar, and sprinkle on a bit of salt. Garnish with sweet fruit. Eat it outdoors.

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