Rene and I had just spent a gorgeous day at the beach – complete with fried calamari and ice cream at our favorite ocean-view shack – and were driving back to the campground to start prepping a communal dinner with 20 or so of his closest Polish family friends. We stopped at a little farm-stand on the road to pick up some produce. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to contribute to the meal, but seeing as it’s been bright hot all day, we were in the mood for a salad. On the shelves, I saw some plump orange tomatoes, ripe peaches and fresh corn, side by side. I bagged up a few pieces of each and we headed “home.”
At first I figured I’d grill the peaches, and serve a raw corn and tomato salad separately. When we got to the campsite, I found half of a red onion leftover in the cooler and a few mint leaves that one of our friends had brought from her home garden in Boston. Seeing the gorgeous colors together – orange, yellow, and pops of green and purple – I switched gears and decided to toss all the ingredients into a huge salad instead. I couldn’t imagine what they would all taste like together but remembered that “What grows together, goes together” and thought, how bad could it be? (Don’t you just love Cape Cod Alex? She’s so laid back.)
It’s also worth mentioning that the type of camping we do can be considered kinda posh. We’re talking blow-up mattresses, gazebos and propane stoves, so our campsite cooking is a touch more sophisticated than the typical warm-a-can-of-beans-in-the-fire fare.
The salad was a hit and I admit I gave myself a mental pat on the back as people praised it all picnic table long. Do you also feel like your best ideas come to you when you’re physically apart from the work itself? Be it in the shower, at the gym, or on vacation, my most creative ideas are always sparked unintentionally, when I am mentally removed. Is it the same for you?
I knew I wanted to remake the salad when I got home and share it with you all. The second time around, I doctored it up with some feta (its briny-ness offsets the sweetness of the peaches and corn nicely) and lemon juice, since the Sun Gold tomatoes I used were not as acidic as the orange vine tomatoes I used back on the Cape; this would also be fantastic with multi-color heirloom tomatoes. This recipe is very simple and is really designed to make the seasonal ingredients sing – thus, making it with out-of-season produce would be a disaster. It’s goes perfectly with grilled foods, so make it for your next barbecue. It’s also great for summer potlucks – just be sure to hold off on dressing it with salt, oil and lemon juice until after you arrive at the party.
- 3 small ears of fresh summer corn, shucked
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 ripe peaches, halved, pitted and thinly sliced
- 1 pound Sun Gold tomatoes, halved
- ½ small red onion, cut into medium dice
- 2 ounces feta, crumbled (about ⅓ cup)
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Handful of mint leaves, cut into thin ribbons
- Lay each ear of corn flat on a large cutting board and using a sharp knife, slice the kernels off. (Reserve the cobs for corn stock, if desired).
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds. Add the corn kernels, season with ¼ teaspoon of salt and a few turns of black pepper. Toss to coat in oil and cook for about 5 minutes, until the kernels are starting to brown.
- Transfer the corn to a large bowl and add the peaches, tomatoes, onion, feta, lemon juice and the remaining tablespoon of oil. Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The salad tastes best if you let it stand for ~10 minutes to let the flavors combine. Garnish with mint before serving.