During the summer, my cooking takes a noticeable shift. I put traditional composed dishes — like, say, a lasagna or roast chicken with potatoes — on the back burner in favor of one-bowl vegetable grab-bags to eat all the peak-summer produce I can get my hands on. This salad is one of those dishes, and I’ll eat it over and over until the vegetables vanish from the markets.
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, we now have the best 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.