September 14, 2010

Like No Other

Stop what you're doing, go out and buy a watermelon and a couple deep red and golden hued heirloom tomatoes.  Hurry.  Before they disappear for the season and you miss out on something amazing.

I have been obsessed with this salad ever since eating at The Blue Plate in San Fransisco back in August.  I could gush on and on about all the delicious food I ate in that fantastic city, but it all comes back to this salad for me.  Some kind of genius in the kitchen created this salad and put it on the menu where I ordered it one fateful dinner and nothing has been the same since.  Sure the fried chicken and buttermilk dressing it shared a plate with were delicious as well, but it was the salad that I was in a near romantic relationship with.  Complete spotlight hog.  So fresh and unexpected.  Olives, slightly pickled pieces of onion and tomatoes with that quintessential summertime melon and basil?  I could not get enough.  Could you bring me more, in a to-go box, please?

I know these watermelon salads are hip right now, popping up on menus all over the place this summer (if not last summer as well), though they're mostly based on a melon/feta/mint/balsamic platform.  But have you had watermelon and basil together?!?  Blows the mint pairing right out of the water, bringing just a slight bit of the savory element.  I could never love another summertime salad the way I love this one.  Too perfect.

Watermelon and Heirloom Tomato Salad
Inspired by The Blue Plate, San Francisco

I did my best to create some semblance of a recipe here, but mostly I was just tossing things into a bowl until it looked right.  Isn't that the beauty of cooking?  A little bit of this, a little bit of that.  Don't let it sit too long, maybe a few hours tops, all the delicious juices start collecting in the bottom of the bowl and the fruit will go a bit soft.

4 servings 

4 cups watermelon chunks, about 1" square
2 cups heirloom tomatoes, cut into rough chunks
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup sweet onion, cut into 1/8" thick slices
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
a handful of Nicoise olives (I used about 15)

Whisk the vinegar and sugar together in a small bowl until the sugar dissolves, add the sliced onion and toss.  Set it aside on the counter for 1 hour, letting the onions soften and get a bit pickled.

Meanwhile chop the watermelon and heirloom tomatoes and put them in a bowl.  Add the basil leaves.  If the leaves are on the smaller side go ahead and leave them whole, otherwise tear larger ones into smaller pieces.  Once the onions are done, fish them out of their liquid with your fingers or a fork and add them to the watermelon/tomato bowl.  Gently give everything a good toss and top with the olives.  Drizzle the vinegar/sugar mix over each serving.

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