Peach, Corn and Zucchini Salad with Bacon
Yesterday my cat was teetering along the edge of the couch like a drunken sailor when he lost his footing, slid off, and landed on his back. What kind of a cat lands on it’s back? I thought that was against the rules or something. I shook my head, muttering loudly about stupid cats that can’t even walk in a straight line, and how is he EVER going to learn to feed himself if he can’t even get from point A to point B without calamity. He looked at me with the soulful and pained expression of one who has been grievously wronged. Or, equally possible, the expression of one who is planning to pee inside each one of my shoes as I sleep.
I immediately regretted denigrating his lack of feline grace and wisdom, and tried to coo sweet and nurturing cat-things to him (“Uh…good cat? Nice fur, you, uh, furry cat. What big, scary, yellow eyes you have.”) but it was too late. He stalked off with his skunk-a-licious tail swishing haughtily in the air, and I felt a bit ashamed of how I had acted. That’s exactly how I feel each fall at the end of zucchini season.
It’s always so delightful to see your tiny white seeds break the earth and emerge as a wee, tender green sprout. It is clearly nature’s little miracle when the first leaves unfurl, and delicate tendrils start to branch out. Three weeks later when your tiny little sprout has turned into the Little Shop of Horrors and it torpedos a three foot bat of a zucchini at you every time you walk by, it’s hard to keep up the enthusiasm. Every day I pick a two pound zucchini off that godforsaken bush, and the next day there are four more glowering at me from under large leaves when I get home. After last season’s abundance, Mike’s lip started to quiver as he asked if I had planted zucchini again, and the horrors of PTSD from the vegetable patch flashed quickly across his face.
Yet you have to think, what kind of ingrates are we to complain about such a prolific plant? We watered it and it…got bigger and produced an abundance of edible produce. Dear lord! The utter abomination! It seems shameful and inherently wrong to condemn a plant for doing exactly what we wanted it to, and for going above and beyond at that. Instead of griping and moaning, we should be thankful for the bounty and the easing up of our grocery bill for at least a few months each year.
It’s hard to keep that perspective in mind mid-way through the season, when zucchini subterfuge is well underway and you’re forced to sneak it into everything from brownies to breakfast shakes (blend it with dark colored berries and no one will notice…), but every October there is at least one evening when I find myself in the garden at dusk, gazing wistfully at the shriveled remains of what was once a magnificent and fertile crop.
With that in mind, in case you’re not of the “all praise zucchini” bent, here is yet another way to disguise it in a chopped salad. The zucchini really does add a nice texture and subtle mellowness to this dish, but the color blends in nicely and the flavor is neatly usurped by sweet corn, peaches, and salty bacon, making it readily able to blend in enough that the anti-zucchinitarians can stomach it.
Better yet, in one bowl, we have most of my favorite seasonal comestibles: corn, peaches, basil, and….bacon. Because let’s face it, any day is a good day for bacon.
Peach, Corn and Zucchini Salad with Bacon
Serves 4 for dinner with some lean protein, or 6-8 as a small side dish
- 3 fresh corn cobs
- 1/4 large red onion
- 3 large cloves garlic
- 1 large garden or 2 small store bought zucchini
- 2 large peaches (or 3-4 smaller home grown)
- 1 medium red pepper
- 1/2 lb streaky bacon
- 1/2 lemon, juice only
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- handful fresh basil (1/4 cup finely chopped)
- salt and finely ground white pepper to taste
Dice the peaches and red pepper into an even medium sized dice, about 1/3″ square. You want the pieces to all be roughly the same size, and bigger isn’t really better.
Chop the bacon into bite sized pieces and put it into a large frying pan set over medium heat. Let the bacon cook, stirring occasionally so that it doesn’t burn in patchy little areas, for about 5-7 minutes. When the bacon is crispy and the fat is rendered, remove the bacon from the pan (a slotted spoon helps) and leave it to drain on paper towel. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan, and reserve the rest of the pan fat. Huh. “Pan fat.” For some reason that expression just tickles me.
While the bacon is crisping up nicely, remove the husk and silk from the corn. Use a sharp knife to slice off the kernels and discard the barren cobs. Dice the zucchini into chunks that are roughly the same size (or just slightly larger) than the peaches and finely mince the garlic.
Chop the red onion into a fine dice.
Add the zucchini, corn and garlic to the pan with bacon fat and raise the heat to medium high. Stirring regularly, let this cook for 3-4 minutes until the zucchini is just softened but still holding together firmly. The corn should be bright and sweet. Add the red onion to the pan and stir it into the mix. Let this cook together for only about 1 minute to just barely soften the red onion and take out a bit of the sting. Remove the pan from the heat.
Scrape the mixture out of the pan and add it to the peaches and pepper in your mixing bowl.
Using the same pan, heat an additional 2 tablespoons of bacon fat over medium heat. As soon as it is melted squeeze in the juice of half a lemon and whisk well. Pour in the cider vinegar and immediately take the pan off the heat. Give it another good whisk before pouring the dressing over the salad.
Wait for the ingredients to cool down to room temperature before chopping up the basil, because it would be a pity to wilt that lovely fresh herbal greenery.
Chiffonade or finely chop the basil as you see fit.
Stir the basil into the salad and crumble in most of the bacon, reserving just a table spoon or so on the side for garnish. Taste the salad and season with salt and/or finely ground white pepper as necessary. Serve the salad at room temperature.
The juicy peaches, sweet corn and salty bacon would be a delightful accompaniment to grilled chicken, and the flavors are even bold enough to hold their own against seared flank steak with a crumbling of gorgonzola on top. However, when I saw that there was fresh wild caught Alaskan salmon available, I went a bit weak in the knees and bought a whole side. Just look at the luscious sunset color of that fish and tell me that you wouldn’t have done the same. I’ll tell you this much, I prefer to buy sustainable seafood and I try to only buy farmed Atlantic salmon or wild caught Pacific salmon, but I have never had such fabulously fresh, sweet and enchanting fish in my life.
Perfect for a picnic or a casual backyard barbecue with friends, Mike and I agreed that this would definitely be one of our go-to salads this summer. And hey, we still have a good month and a half of summer left ahead of us! Like life itself, the corn will only get sweeter.