Okra is my favorite vegetable, summertime or not, and it's teeming in farmers markets now. Fresh corn is a close second, its sweetness there to balance the okra's verdancy. In California, mild, floral Jimmy Nardello peppers are a rare treat at this time of year; when I see them in the market, I buy a giant handful of the spindly, twisted chiles. And then, of course, there are the heirloom tomatoes, as soft as water balloons and begging to be eaten like apples while their juice bleeds down your arm.
To transform them into dinner, I arrange thin wedges of those tomatoes on a platter and sprinkle them with sea salt and pepper to help draw out their moisture and season them deeply while I get on with cooking the rest of the ingredients. The okra, peppers and corn each get their turn in the skillet, stir-fried with a little olive oil until lightly blistered and tender. Some crisped spicy Italian sausage — full of chile heat and fennel seeds — adds meaty heft to the vegetables, while their rendered fat mingles with apple cider vinegar and minced garlic to tie the whole dish together.
A scattering of basil leaves dresses up the dish and announces that this is dinner, which, for the next few weeks, means a confetti bowl of the best ingredients summer has to offer.
Charred Okra and Corn Salad With Spicy Sausage Vinaigrette
1 large heirloom or vine-ripe tomato, cored
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
8 ounces spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
3 tablespoons everyday olive oil, divided use
4 ounces sweet red pepper such as Jimmy Nardello or regular bell pepper, stemmed and cut into strips lengthwise
8 ounces okra, split lengthwise
1 ½ cups corn kernels, cut from 3 ears or frozen, (thawed)
Granulated sugar (optional)
Flaky sea salt
Torn basil or flat-leaf parsley leaves, to garnish
Cut the tomato into half-inch-thick wedges or slices and arrange them evenly over the bottom of a large serving platter. Season the tomatoes with salt and black pepper. In a small bowl, stir together the vinegar and garlic.
Crumble the sausage into a large nonstick skillet, then place over medium heat. Once the sausage starts sizzling, continue cooking, stirring occasionally and breaking up the crumbles as you go, until deeply golden brown and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Using a wooden spoon or heat-proof silicone spatula, scrape the sausage and its fat into a large bowl.
Return the skillet to medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the peppers, season with salt and black pepper and cook, in a single layer and undisturbed, until lightly blistered on one side, about 2 minutes. Toss the peppers and cook, undisturbed, until blistered all over and just tender, 1 to 2 minutes more. Scrape the peppers into the bowl and leave them on top of the sausage.
Return the skillet to medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the okra to the skillet, season with salt and black pepper and cook, using tongs to arrange each piece cut side down as much as you can (this helps rid them of their slimy texture, but don't sweat over it), until charred on one side, 3 to 4 minutes. Toss the okra in the skillet and continue cooking until lightly charred on the other side and just tender, 3 to 4 minutes more. Scrape the okra into the bowl and leave it on top of the peppers.
Return the skillet to medium heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the corn, season with salt and black pepper, and sugar if using, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape the corn into the bowl, add the vinegar-garlic mixture and toss everything together while warm.
Immediately spoon the salad over the tomatoes in an even layer. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and more black pepper. Garnish with basil just before serving.
Makes 2 to 4 servings.