Summer's Bounty

This is my favorite time of year. The farm stands are open in our lovely little corner of the country. The sweet corn is not quite ready, however, there're plenty of other veggies singing their siren song ("eat me! eat me!").

July is the time for blueberries, heirloom tomatoes, peaches, cucumbers and squashes. The first herbs are also appearing for sale. The farm stands also bring in beautiful things from New Jersey farms. I'm like a kid in a candy store, often spending as much as I have in my wallet in one shopping trip.

The following recipe earned me a prize in a long-ago culinary competition in New York City:

Tomato-Peach Compote Vinaigrette

2 pounds garden-fresh tomatoes

2 pounds orchard-fresh peaches

A big fat sweet Vidalia Onion

1/4 cup Raspberry vinegar (or substitute apple cider vinegar)

1 tsp. Dijon Mustard

As much fresh (or dried) Tarragon as you like

1/2 cup virgin Olive Oil

Blanch the the tomatoes and peaches to get the skins off: Boil a large pot of water. Have a large bowl filled with ice water (more ice than water) nearby. Plunge the fruits into the boiling water for no more than 15 seconds apiece. Remove immediately to the ice water bath. The peels will now come off the peaches and tomatoes if you score the skin with an "X" and then pull down on the skins. Use a paring knife to assist in skin removal. (You can keep the skins and put 'em in a blender with some yogurt, to make a very tasty, nutritious smoothie. Just make sure you puree the mixture a good long time, to avoid large pieces of skin.)

Now cut the peaches in half and remove the pits. Slice the peaches 1/4" thick. Cut the tomatoes in quarters and push out the seeds, discarding them. Slice the seeded tomato quarters 1/4" thick. Place the peaches and tomatoes into the bowl you'll use for mixing the salad.

Skin the onion and cut it in half. Slice the halves into 1/8" slices. Put the slices in the bowl with the fruit.

In a food processor or a small bowl place the vinegar, mustard and tarragon. Start the food processor (or start whisking rapidly), and add the olive oil in a very thin stream. Start out with just a few drops; you're going to emulsify this sauce. After the oil's been incorporated, process about 1/2 minute more (the sauce will begin to look white).

Dress the salad with the vinaigrette, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the salad in the refrigerator for at least a half hour prior to serving. Enjoy with grilled meats, especially lamb. This salad is also glorious next to cold poached (or grilled) fish of any kind.

Now, I beseech you, go visit your local farm stand and take advantage of summer's delights for the palate!