It never seems like summer until August arrives. Finally, the best of summer produce is at our markets; gardens slowly begin to yield their bounty. It’s hot. It’s steamy. The days are long and abundance is the emerging theme. But there is something about tomatoes that brings a wry smile to my face. I remember all the tomato plants we used to have in our back yard hanging heavy with fruit. This was before our dogs thought the green tomatoes were the same as tennis balls. In the sun, the tomatoes were a kaleidoscope of color and it took little more than an outstretched palm to encourage one to fall from the vine. The warmth, the sweet juices and that undeniable fragrance of the tomato — if there is a defining moment of summer, at least in my world, this is it.
Tomatoes are magnificent on their own and match a whole host of this season’s best to make a salad, a salsa, or even a “vegetable” course. Try cucumbers, watermelon, olives, nectarine and peaches. Don’t forget to add in herbs, like basil, parsley, mint, and even cilantro. Other exotic ingredients like ginger and lemongrass add a distinctive note to any tomato combination. And that’s the key. The combination of these summer flavors work together brilliantly. Mother nature knows what she’s doing: she grows together things that go together.
In the recipe that follows, I think you’ll find that the abundance of ripe watermelon available now and the sweet ripe flavor of tomato are exquisite together; the subtle, but oh-so-important structure provided by the flavor of fennel and vinaigrette are not to be underestimated. If you are looking for a stunning composition of flavors to call summer, you might want to stop here.
Recipe: Tomato Watermelon Salad
Serves 6 to 8
3 to 4 cups fresh, ripe tomatoes seeded and chopped into about ½-inch dice
2 cups chopped watermelon, seeded and chopped into a ¼” dice
1 small head fennel, sliced paper thin on a mandoline
½ cup gently packed fresh chopped herbs, such as parsley, basil, chives, cilantro and mint, plus additional leaves chopped for garnish
For the Watermelon Dressing
1 ½ cups seeded and chopped watermelon
1 ½ tablespoons wildflower or lavender honey
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon Sweet Chili Sauce*
Pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper, to season
6 ounces Ricotta Salata cheese, broken into chunks, to garnish
*Sweet Chili Sauce is available in the ethnic section of most well stocked grocery stores.
Soak the fennel in a large bowl of ice water until it crisps and curls, about 1 hour. Drain and spin dry. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Make the dressing. Puree the watermelon in a blender or a food processor and then strain the watermelon juice into a small saucepan. Simmer the juice over medium heat until reduced to about 1/2 to 1/3 cup. Remove from the heat and stir in the honey, lime juice and Sweet Chili Sauce. Mix well; add salt and pepper to season. Set aside.
Make the salad. In a large bowl, combine the chopped tomatoes and watermelon; add the fennel. Toss to combine. Add half of the herbs, reserving the remainder for a garnish. Gently toss to incorporate.
Mound a serving of the tomato and watermelon salad in the center of a chilled salad plate. Drizzle with the vinaigrette. Garnish each with a sprinkle of the chopped herbs and 1 ounce of the cheese.
Copyright © 2012 by Donna Marie Desfor and There’s a Chef in My Kitchen LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright © 2012 WITF, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Published in In witfs Kitchen with Chef Donna Desforback to top