Article & Pictures by Elizabeth Miller
I will grill anything. Breads, cobblers, whole chickens—you name it, I’ll grill it. With the heat of summer finally making a much anticipated appearance, it seems only fitting that my most recent trip to the farmers market was made with a fervent plan to grill whatever I ended up taking home that day.
Grilling can really bring out the best aspects of any food, and vegetables and fruit, though not generally not thought of as being the stars of the grill, are no exception. As luck would have it, two of my favorite items to grill—peaches and corn—were available at the first market stands to catch my eye at the Thursday Buckman Market. Gathering Together Farm, always a surefire winner, supplied me with beautifully taut and sweet ears of corn. Fortuitously placed right next to the corn was a basket of gorgeous, plump heirloom tomatoes (and I do mean plump—the impeccable specimen I took home with me weighed in at exactly 20 ounces), which sparked a dinner plan when laid down beside a pile of vividly aromatic basil.
Once I tasted a sample of the ripe and beautiful fruit available from Baird Family Orchards, it was impossible for me to leave the stand empty-handed, especially when my mind kept wandering off with thoughts of the peaches and basil mingling together. It seems as though not enough people are aware of this, but basil and peaches make for an undeniably delicious combination. Were I to surmise why, my first instinct would point to the inherently minty attributes of basil, and how, combined with sweet, juicy peaches, that mintiness is allowed to really showcase the delicate perfume-like qualities of its partner. Though it might seem overly quaint of me, using a common herb to tie together a grilled meal and dessert plan seemed like the perfect way to really make my grilling plans sing.
And sing they did, the grilled corn made savory and tangy in a decidedly crunchy and summery salad, and the grilled peaches taken to new heights of caramelized glory when drizzled with a lightly sweet basil sauce. If you’re looking for a way to usher in the spoils of summer, I can think of nothing more appealing.
Tomato, Basil, and Grilled Corn Salad
3 ears corn, husked and cleaned of any fibers
1 teaspoon unsalted butter, softened
1 lb ripe tomatoes
1 cup firmly packed fresh basil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
Heat your grill (gas or charcoal will both work just fine) to a medium high heat of about 400 degrees. Lightly coat each ear of corn with softened butter. Placing corn directly on the grill grates, grill corn for 4-6 minutes, turning every minute or so, until kernels have started to char and you can hear the corn popping and snapping in the heat. Remove corn from grill and set aside to cool. When corn has cooled, hold each ear on end on top of a flat surface. Using a large, sharp knife, slice kernels of corn off of the ear, slicing from top to bottom.
Slice tomatoes into large ribs. Stack the basil leaves on top of one another, roll tightly, then slice the roll of basil into fine ribbons. Place corn and tomatoes on a large platter, and sprinkle with ribbons of basil.
In a small bowl, combine vinegars and salt and pepper. Slowly pour the olive oil into the vinegar mixture, whisking as you pour. When the ingredients have become thick and emulsified, drizzle the dressing over the salad.
Grilled Peaches with Basil Sauce
¼ cup sugar
½ cup water
¾ cup firmly packed basil leaves
2 large ripe peaches, sliced in half and pits removed
In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water and allow to come to a simmer over medium high heat, stirring frequently until the sugar has dissolved. When the mixture just begins to simmer remove it from heat, pour into a separate bowl, and place in the refrigerator to cool.
Heat your grill on high heat. Thoroughly oil the grill grates. Lightly brush the cut side of each peach with a small amount of oil. Place the peaches, cut side down, directly onto the grill grates. Grill peaches for 2 minutes, then turn over and grill for another 2 minutes until slightly soft. If your peaches are incredibly ripe, they may not need to be grilled for the entire 4 minutes. Alternately, if your peaches are underripe, they may need to be grilled a bit longer. Remove peaches from grill and set aside to cool.
Remove cooled simple syrup from refrigerator. Combine simple syrup and basil leaves in a blender, and blend for 30 seconds, or until a thick sauce has formed. The sauce should have texture, but it should not be lumpy. Continue to blend until no large chunks remain.
Slice each peach half into 3 or 4 slices. Arrange on a platter, then drizzle with half of the basil sauce. Serve with a small bowl of additional basil sauce on the side.