Heirloom Tomato Salad with Corn and Curry Leaf Breadcrumbs
This salad is made for those rare summery days that come late after the season has already passed. The juicy, sweet, and acidic tomatoes provide the perfect foil to the caramelized corn and the crunch of the hand-torn breadcrumbs with their hint of black pepper and curry leaves.
Note: If you’re not lucky enough to have gorgeous off-season tomatoes and corn, this salad can be easily adapted to what you have on hand. Instead of tomatoes, use ripe fuyu persimmons in the fall. Make sure that they’re tender to the touch, but not jelly-soft like hachiyas. Peel them with a sharp knife or peeler and slice into thin rounds.
3 large summer heirloom tomatoes (the weirder and more colorful the better), stems removed
2 ears corn, shucked, silk removed, and kernels removed from cobs and reserved
1 sprig curry leaves, stripped from stem and finely chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup white wine vinegar
¼ cup water
2 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
Curry leaf breadcrumbs
1 cup coarsely hand-torn breadcrumbs made from a rustic or sourdough loaf
2 sprigs curry leaves, stripped from stem and finely chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
First, prepare the breadcrumbs.
Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the center.
In a small skillet, heat 3–4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Add the chopped curry leaves to the hot oil and stand back as it sputters. Remove from the heat as soon as the sputtering dies down. Make sure that the leaves do not burn.
In a medium bowl, toss the breadcrumbs with the chopped curry leaves, the oil they were fried in, salt, and pepper. The crumbs should be well coated with oil. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
Spread the crumbs out on a small parchment-lined sheet pan. Place in the center of the preheated oven and bake, undisturbed, for 10 minutes, or until the crumbs are golden brown and crisp. Set aside to cool. This step can be done up to two days ahead.
To pickle the shallots, halve the shallots and peel them. Cut off the root end of each and separate the layers in each half into petals. Heat the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan till you begin to see bubbles at the edges of the liquid. Add the shallots to the pan and cover. Set aside for at least 10 minutes or until ready to use. If making these pickled shallots ahead of time, transfer the shallots to a jar and store in the refrigerator.
To prepare the tomatoes, set the tomatoes, stem-side-up on a chopping board. Using a very sharp knife, slice horizontal layers of tomato as thin as you can while still keeping the slices whole. Aim for ¼-inch-thick slices, if possible.
As you slice the tomatoes, place them in a platter so that they are only slightly overlapping. As you finish one layer, sprinkle sparingly with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Repeat till all the tomatoes are used.
To prepare the corn, heat 2–3 tbsp of olive oil in a 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the finely chopped curry leaves and let sizzle for less than a minute—just till aromatic. Add the corn and ½ tsp salt and begin to stir.
The sugar from the corn will caramelize as the corn cooks and stick to the bottom of the pan. If it looks at all like the bottom of the pan is scorching, add a tablespoon or two of water. Cook till the corn is tender and sweet and caramelized in spots.
Ladle the still-warm corn over the sliced tomatoes.
Sprinkle liberally with the drained pickled shallots and breadcrumbs and serve immediately.