It’s the season of farm-grown fruits and vegetables, when grocery store shelves and farmers markets are bursting with fresh produce. There’s no better time to use that bounty and no better dish to showcase it than the palate-pleasing and artistic summer peach and heirloom tomato salad, Peter Vath says.
“It contains all the best flavors of summer in Connecticut: sweet, juicy peaches, wonderfully flavorful local tomatoes, farm-fresh corn — and you can’t beat the fabulous colors,” says Vath, a Connecticut native and head chef at Savour Cafe & Bakery in Centerbrook, a section of Essex.
The salad is versatile, perfectly served as an appetizer or side dish. “It would go well with anything grilled, whether it be steak, chicken or even shrimp,” Vath says.
Vath took a circuitous route to Savour, where he started in 2016. After obtaining a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Brown University and a postdoc from the University of Maryland, Vath became a stay-at-home dad. He then pursued his interest in cooking, working for caterers while attending culinary school.
At Savour, Vath, along with fellow chefs Bobbi Pace and Pamela Toomey Reeves, loves trying new dishes and changing up the menu depending on what’s seasonally available. Vath advises home cooks, especially in the summer, to visit farm stands to find the most flavorful ingredients. “In Connecticut, it’s a very short growing season, and I like to take advantage of the availability of so many fresh fruits and produce during the summer.”
Peter Vath’s Summer peach and heirloom tomato salad
Makes 6-8 servings • Time: 25-30 minutes
- 4 ripe peaches, pitted and cut into wedges
- 2 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges (Vath prefers Lemon Boys and Green Zebras for added color and interest; they are also slightly less acidic)
- 6 ears fresh corn
- Fresh basil, small bunch torn into pieces
- 4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled goat cheese, or any preferred crumbly cheese
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- ½ cup vegetable oil (a canola-olive oil blend is preferred, but straight canola is fine)
- ⅓ cup white balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons local honey, or whatever honey is on hand
- 1 shallot, finely minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
Remove husks from the corn and grill over medium heat until lightly charred on all sides, about 7-8 minutes. Rotate corn so that it cooks evenly on all sides. Cool and cut kernels off the cob.
To prepare the vinaigrette, combine shallots with balsamic vinegar in a small bowl and let sit for 10 minutes so the flavor of the shallots mellows out. Whisk in honey and then slowly drizzle vegetable oil in while whisking to emulsify the dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
In a medium-size bowl, combine corn, tomatoes and peaches. Toss gently with the vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper to taste. When you are ready to serve, sprinkle torn basil and cheese over the top of the salad.
Note: Tomatoes taste best at room temperature, so it is best to prepare the salad just before serving. The dressing can be made ahead and refrigerated until the salad is ready to assemble.