Peach, Tomato, and Corn Salad with Jalapeño, Basil, and Mint
That thing of women caring for eachother with food is universal. I know men do this too, but in my universe, it’s usually the ladies bringing lasagna to new mamas and banana bread to the bereaved. It’s the only way I know to cope with the helplessness that accompanies a loved one’s suffering. Such was the case a few summers ago when I flew to New Jersey to be with my friend Heidi, grieving the sudden loss of her husband, Jim. When I touched down at the airport Heidi texted to say family and neighbors would be gathering in a few hours. “Can you make a salad?” she asked. “Of course!” I responded, relieved to have something to do. Salad wouldn’t take away Heidi’s sadness, but at least it could feed her people.
I hit the market on my way into her small New Jersey town and settled on ingredients that the Garden State takes immense pride in producing: tomatoes, peaches, and corn. I bought mountains of them, along with basil and a few other odds and ends. Once I found my way to a kitchen, I set to work, piling the produce high on a platter, a tower of glossy goodness.
At the gathering, I put the salad on a picnic table alongside other potluck arrivals and take-out pizza. I worried that folks would think peaches and tomatoes an odd pairing. Instead, they ate every scrap as we sat in the backyard and shared stories of sweet Jim, who loved big get togethers and good food in equal measure. We cried and drank too much wine from paper cups as the kids tossed around a basketball until well past sunset.
I’ve since made what I now think of as New Jersey salad several times, albeit with ingredients from my own local market. It’s a memory on a platter for me, one that can’t cure heartache, but can nourish someone you care about. It’s especially good if you make it in New Jersey.
More Summer Salads
Summer Salmon Salad with Wild Blueberry Vinaigrette by Danielle Omar
Pasta Salad with Roasted Tomatoes by Marcia Smart
Summer Peach, Tomato, and Corn Salad with Jalapeño, Mint, and Basil
This bright, fresh salad is one to save exclusively for summer. It’s seasonal produce at its best. Delicious as it, the salad is also built for tinkering. Tuck slices of fresh Mozzarella or pieces of burrata amongst the peach and tomato slices, scatter roasted pistachios over the top, add a handful of good, salty feta, make it panzanella style by adding torn croutons of toasted baguette. Make it a main dish by serving skewers of grilled chicken, pork, or fish on the side.
- 2 cobs corn shucked
- 2 barely ripe peaches cut into ⅓-inch wedges
- 3 medium or 2 large tomatoes cut into ½-inch wedges
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 1/2 teaspoons minced jalapeno pepper
- 1 ½ teaspoons fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons chopped mint
- 3 tablespoons chopped basil
- Optional: Add any of the following to the finished salad: 4 ounces fresh mozzarella or burrata, toasted pistachios, a handful of cherry tomatoes, a handful of crumbled feta, a crusty baguette torn into pieces and toasted, pickled red onion
Put the corn in a pot large enough so it lays flat. Add 1 inch water to the pot. Cover and turn to high heat. Cook until the corn is just tender, which takes just a few minutes once the water boils (I test it by using a paring knife to pop a kernel from the corn and tasting it). When the corn is cool enough to handle, sheer the kernels off the cobs.
Put the corn and tomatoes on a platter or large plate. Season with a few pinches of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the peaches to the platter.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the jalapeno, fish sauce, honey, vinegar, and oil until blended. Pour over the salad and use your hands or two spoons to toss everything together. Scatter the mint and basil over the top. Taste and add more salt or pepper as needed. Serve immediately.