This has been my lunch for seven days in row—and it may be this week’s lunch too. Why stop when you’re on a winning streak?
Right now, we’re at summer’s sweet spot—the intersection of luscious, tree-ripened peaches with the first field grown heirloom tomatoes. Juicy ones, dripping with rich tomato flavor. Not greenhouse coddled, but ripened on the vine in hot summer sun.
Add basil leaves from the garden and you have a salad that tastes like summer incarnate. Use whatever basil you have on hand—spicy Genovese, of course, or Valentino’s fragrant ruffled leaf. But don’t stop there. Anise-flavored Thai basil brings out the divine sweetness of a ripe peach, while there’s nothing like delicate lemon basil to make a ripe tomato taste even more alluring.
And what about cinnamon basil? Or citrusy lime? Try a different variety everyday and pick your own favorite(s).
As for the fruit, it’s a toss up between our local yellow peaches—this week it’s the clingy but delicious Claytons—and white ones, tinged with pink, coming in from Georgia. It’s the flavor that counts, of course: A peach should taste like, well, like a peach—ripe, juicy, and sweet—and its flesh should be firm. Eat quickly and don’t refrigerate.
Ditto for the tomatoes: Look for ripe, firm fruit with real tomato flavor. You might like Brandywines, Cherokee Purples or even Celebrity (not heirloom, but a better than decent tomato with a nice balance of sweetness and acidity). Just make sure tomatoes are not mushy—and never, ever refrigerate.
It takes about 5 minutes to slice the peaches and tomatoes, arrange them on a plate, and layer with aromatic basil leaves of your choice. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and sea salt. A bit of fiery serrano pepper, finely chopped, wouldn’t be amiss.
Eat outside under the shade of the parasol, listening to water trickle through the bamboo fountain into the old ginger pots. A horse snorts in the field behind the woods; your dog, snoozing in the heat, cocks an ear. Maybe the hummingbirds will show up today.
This lunch is good for at least 15 minutes of summer joy.
Peach, Tomato & Basil Salad
To serve 2
2 large ripe tomatoes
2 large ripe peaches
Small handful of basil from the garden (any variety will do)
Olive oil (mild and fruity tasting)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon finely chopped serrano pepper (optional)
For each plate, slice one tomato and one peach. Slices should be fairly thin, about 1/3 inch thick. Alternate tomato and peach slices in any way that you choose. Tuck basil leaves between the layers.
Drizzle with a little fruity, mild tasting olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Scatter chopped serrano pepper if desired and serve at once.