The ABCs of Summer Salad | An Ayurvedic Recipe

The ABCs of Summer Salad | An Ayurvedic Recipe

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From beach days to pool days to deck days, summer is a time for breaking the rules with all kinds of out of the ordinary socializing and play. And for many of us, that often includes veering off of our Ayurvedic routines when it comes to diet and lifestyle. 

While an iced coffee, salad, or late night around a bonfire here or there usually won’t cause problems, repeated indulgence in the qualities and combinations of food and habits that Ayurveda suggests we avoid can contribute to imbalances of all sorts. 

Namely, a reduction in agni during a season when our digestive fire is already at its lowest capacity. And with that comes the inevitable accumulation of ama, or metabolic waste, which can put a damper on your summer plans in the form of illness or indigestion. Or, in the longer-term, set you up for imbalance once the season changes in the fall.

The good news is that you don’t have to choose between summer fun and health! 

As usual in Ayurveda, the key lies in preparation and prevention. When your calendar starts to fill up with barbecues and picnics, set aside some time to prepare meals that will support your overall digestion and nutrition, so that you can also enjoy the typical summer fare of salads and grilled goodies. 

Just remember your ABCs, and you’ll be all set to BYOA—bring your own Ayurveda—in the form of this delicious summer salad that will impress and satisfy everyone at the party. 

ABC #1: Pitta-Balancing Ingredients that Are Acidic, Bitter, and Cooling

The first ABCs to remember are the basics for balancing the heat and intensity of pitta dosha, which is dominant in the summer season. This salad features ingredients that cover the main qualities we look for in a pitta-balancing meal: cooling, bitter, and a little bit sour (acidic). 

A: Avocado, Acid

The ultimate pitta-friendly fat, avocado is cool and, when digested, surprisingly light, making it ideal for a less-potent agni. It’s also nutrient and mineral-dense, which helps to make up for the depletion that can come from sweating and extra outdoor summer activities. 

Acid (and the sour taste) is generally said to aggravate pitta in large quantities, but it can be supportive in smaller quantities—like a squeeze of lemon juice in a dressing. Sour helps to ignite agni when it’s burning on a lower flame, and moves stagnation that can build up in bouts of fatigue. In this recipe, the acid acts as a kind of cooking process, too, helping to pre-digest the main ingredients which, on their own, can be heavy and hard to break down.

B: Bitter, Brussels Sprouts, Brassicaceae, Buckwheat

The vegetables in this salad fall in the Brassicacacea family—aka cruciferous vegetables. Their bitter, slightly heating qualities make them ideal for early summer, when there might be some excess kapha hanging around from spring. 

Bitter is the number-one taste for balancing pitta, since its cool, dry nature counters both the fire and water elements that comprise the dosha.

Buckwheat is another ideal ingredient for pitta, since this gluten-free non-grain (it’s technically a seed) is nutrient-dense and cooling. When toasted, it offers a slightly sweet, nutty flavor that compliments the bitterness of the vegetables and spices.

C: Cooling, CCF, Cabbage, Cashews, Coconut Oil

A beloved digestive panacea, the Ayurvedic spice blend CCF (cumin, coriander, fennel) helps to soften some of the harshness of the cruciferous vegetables, which can be hard to digest when eaten raw. CCF is especially ideal for pitta, since two-thirds of the ingredients are cooling and bitter. 

While cashews are a more heating nut, they offer a creamy texture that’s the yang to the yin of the avocado in the dressing. 

And just a pinch of crunch as a garnish creates a well-rounded texture experience, along with the crispy roasted vegetables (a crisp better achieved in the oven than on the grill, where the signature “char” is full of carcinogens).

 

roasted vegetables on a sheet pan

ABC #2: Already Been Cooked 

Reclaiming the age-old middle-school acronym, the ABC of “already been cooked” is key in making this salad Ayurvedic. Raw foods are generally harder to digest, and even more so when agni is low in the summertime. 

While it may seem easier and cooler to chop up some veggies and toss them in a bowl when the temperature spikes, you’re not doing your body any favors by avoiding cooking. 

Eating raw and cooked foods together (a big salad alongside a grilled burger) can create further confusion in the GI tract, slowing down the entire digestive process. By applying heat to food before you ingest it, you save your body valuable energy so it can be nourished and regulate your body temperature in the summer. 

This doesn’t mean that you always have to eat your foods hot or warm in temperature. Once the ingredients are cooked and mixed, feel free to chill the salad or serve it at room temperature.

The exception to the cooked-foods rule for summer is fruit, which can be enjoyed raw in summer—but only on its own. Avoid mixing fruit with other foods (like salad!), since its faster digestion time can lead to fermentation—and discomfort—in the stomach. 

A final pitta-balancing component of the cooking process involves the sense of sight, which is governed by pitta. Between the caramelized vegetables, the toasted buckwheat and nuts, and the bright green hue of the creamy dressing, this salad is a feast for the eyes that will stand out on any buffet table. 

Be sure to slow down and savor the process of preparation, digesting this delicious and healthful meal with all of your senses.

ABC Ayurvedic Summer Salad Recipe

Prep time: 30 minutes 

Cook time: 40 minutes

Serves: 4 as a main, 8 as a side

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound brussels sprouts
  • ½ medium head of cabbage 
  • 4 whole garlic cloves, skins on 
  • 2 teaspoons coriander powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seed
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seed
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
  • 1 cup raw buckwheat groats or kasha (pre-toasted), plus ¼ cup for garnish 
  • ½ teaspoon natural mineral salt 
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the dressing:

  • ½ cup raw whole cashews (plus ¼ cup chopped for garnish)
  • 1 avocado 
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a small bowl, pour boiling water over ½ cup of the cashews for the dressing. Let soak for at least 30 minutes.

Chop the brussels sprouts in half, then fan the outer leaves gently for optimal toasting. Chop the cabbage into thin half-moons to make ribbons.

Arrange the brussels sprouts, cabbage, and garlic cloves on a large sheet pan. Sprinkle the coriander, cumin, and fennel over the pan, then drizzle with the coconut oil. Roast for 40 minutes, tossing halfway through, or until the vegetables are browned and crisp at the edges but soft in the center.

In a small sauté pan over low heat, toast the buckwheat groats (if using raw; if using kasha it’s already toasted) until browned and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a medium saucepan and add two cups water, salt, and cinnamon. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until the groats have soaked up the water and are soft.

Using the same small sauté pan over low heat, toast the remaining ¼ cup raw buckwheat groats and ¼ cup chopped cashews until browned and fragrant, about 5 minutes.

When the vegetables are done, remove the pan from the oven and let rest for five minutes. 

For the dressing, remove the skin from the garlic once cool enough to handle. Add the garlic, soaked cashews (and soaking water), avocado, and lemon juice to a blender or food processor. Blitz until smooth, adding water until the dressing is creamy but pourable. 

Combine the roasted vegetables and buckwheat to a large bowl. Add half of the dressing and toasted buckwheat and cashews; stir to combine well. Serve at room temperature or chilled, with additional dressing on the side.

Enjoy sharing your Abundant, Bountiful, and Crave-worthy summer salad with your friends and loved ones!