This recipe was inspired by the summer bounty that spilled out of my CSA box. Fresh lavender perfumed the air as I unpacked each item with glee: heirloom tomatoes, okra, honeydew, beets, figs, flying saucer squash, and lemon cucumbers, among other loot. I rinsed off and bit into a plump, ripe, fig as the culinary inspiration started working its way through my thoughts. Before I knew it, sauce pans were out, kitchen cabinets hung ajar, and a CSA salad was born. —Lick My Spoon
ROASTED BEETS - Preheat oven to 450 F. Rinse beets, remove leaves, and wrap in foil. Place on a baking sheet and roast for an hour until the beets are tender through. Let cool until you can handle them. (Tip: wear gloves or place a plastic baggie over your hand to protect your fingers from getting stained.) Using a paring knife, peel the skin off the beets. It should come off easily. Slice into ¼ inch rounds. Set aside.
FIGS & BALSAMIC REDUCTION - Heat a small saucepan to medium-high heat. Sear the fig halves, flat side down for a few minutes, just until the surface caramelizes a bit. Remove and set aside. In the same pan, lower the heat and add the balsamic vinegar and sugar. Let simmer until the sauce becomes thick and syrupy. Set aside.
CUCUMBER RELISH - Cut the cucumber into a fine dice. You can leave the skin on if you’re using lemon cucumbers since their skin is softer than regular green cucumbers. Mix with rice vinegar, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and set aside.
FRIED SUMMER SQUASH - In a deep frying pan, heat 2 inches of oil to right below smoking point. I like the taste of olive oil (don’t use the expensive stuff), but you can use vegetable oil if you prefer. Prepare your assembly line: squash sliced into ¼ inch rounds, egg wash, dish filled with bread crumbs seasoned with lavender and a pinch of salt and pepper. I prefer panko because of its extra crunch, but you can use regular dried breadcrumbs as well. Dip each slice of squash into egg wash, then coat with breadcrumbs. To test the oil, drop a little piece of eggy breadcrumb into the pan. If it just sinks, the oil is not hot enough. If it burns quickly, the oil is too hot. If it starts to bubble right away and floats, it is just the right temperature and you’re now ready to start frying up your squash. Let the fried squash drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with a little salt while they’re still hot. Set aside.
CHEESE - You can use any cheese you’d like, however, fresh goat cheese and beets are a traditional pairing. If you’re like me though, and have an aversion to goat cheese (I know, one of my great downfalls as a foodie, I disappoint myself in this respect time after time), try a gooey burrata, or Cowgirl Creamery’s buttery Mt. Tam, or a ricotta salata for something sharper and firmer.
Now you’re ready to assemble and plate. Layer beets, cheese, squash, repeat, and top with the cucumber relish. Garnish with the figs and balsamic reduction. Enjoy!