Summery Peach and Sweetcorn Salad with Basil, Welcome August
It’s officially sweetcorn season, a time of year when by vegetable drawer is packed with a dozen plump ears every time I visit the farmers market. 12 ears of corn, two people, you do the math. We go on a bit of a corn binge.
It’s an annual bacchanal of corn love. Maybe it’s because we both grew up in Illinois. We just love the seasonal bounty, simply boiled, tossed on the grill, or shaved off the cob for all sorts of dishes. I’ve posted some regular faves on the blog in the past, including my Fast and Tasty Corn Saute and a Raw Corn and Mint Salad, even a Korean Style Corn Pizza.
This week, I was pondering my pile of fresh ears and I saw another seasonal star, languishing on the windowsill. Yes, I had stocked up on some fragrant, blushing peaches at the store, and they were ready to go. It was a thrill to cut into one, as they were just on the edge of over-ripe, heavy with sweet juices. Luckily, they were not too soft, and had not succumbed to any of the many sad disasters that can befall soft fruit. One minute, they are rock hard, the next, mealy and brown inside, you just never can tell how it will go. So this time, I hit the jackpot.
The truth about peaches, is that you can’t really tell whether they have been handled properly. To shop carefully, look for peaches that are not green, but that have yellow backgrounds with a pink blush. The blush is where the sun hit the peach. Fruit that is picked green and rock hard will never ripen. It should be more “tennis ball” firm, at the most. Those mealy peaches that look just fine but turn out to be lumpy and rotten inside? Those were over-chilled at some point in their journey to you. They emerged from that traumatic event looking like innocent little peaches, but they were already ruined when you bought them.
Grr. Big peach growers have a little tool called a “penetrometer” that they use to gauge the ripeness of the peaches at picking time. I guess that is more scientific than just squeezing them.
So, my lovely, smooth textured and ripe peaches were even more exciting, since I was steeling myself for the possibility that they would be duds, like the last batch.
That probably reveals something about my outlook on life. Prepare for the worst, celebrate when good things happen? At least with peaches.
With a ripe, juicy peach in hand, I had a sudden flash of inspiration. Why not put the lush, juicy peaches and crisp, sweet corn in the same dish? With a creamy dressing, the corn would seem fruitier next to the peaches. The peaches would be even more sensuous and tender with the bright corn kernels exploding alongside.
The herbal hit of fresh basil was a good foil for all the sweet, creaminess. A quick spike of red chiles kept it from getting too comforting altogether. It just needed a zing of citrus to balance the super-sweet peaches, and a generous grating of lemon zest did the trick.
You can go vegan with the coconut milk option, which is even better with Thai Basil, and a tablespoon or so of fresh lemon juice. For my yogurt loving friends, you can rely on the acidity of your fave fermented milk product.
So go ahead, take a gamble on some peaches. You’ll do best when you buy local and know your farmer. All that chill trauma happens when they are in trucks from far, far away. Hedge your bets and buy from the closest peach trees, and buy slightly soft, not rock hard.
Of all the gambles you might take in life, this one is worth taking. You win, great peaches, you lose, well, it can go in the compost.
Peach and Sweetcorn Salad with Basil and Chiles
Sweet, tangy peaches make a perfect foil for crunchy sweet corn. Vegans can use the coconut milk and lemon juice option, or even a prepared non-dairy yogurt. It’s just so easy.
4 ears sweetcorn, about 2 cups kernels
4 peaches, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, slivered
1 cup coconut milk or yogurt (if using coconut milk, stir in a tablespoon of lemon juice)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
3 tablespoons honey or agave
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 large red chile, minced
Set up a steamer for the corn kernels. Cut them off the cob and steam for about 2 minutes. Just barely cook them, they will stay sweet and crunchy. Let cool. Chop the peaches and basil, put in a bowl, add the cooled corn.
In a medium bowl, stir the coconut milk or yogurt, lemon zest, honey or agave, salt and chile. Pour over the peach mixture and stir gently. Serve chilled.