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Tomato, Mozzarella and ... Watermelon?

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Aug 6, 2007 3:23pm ET

Several restaurants here in Aspen are mixing heirloom tomatoes with watermelon in salads and soups. Maybe tomatoes and watermelons are finding their way onto plates together all over the U.S. and I just haven't heard about it up here in my remote mountain village. But if you haven't tried this combination, it's a winner.

At LuLu Wilson, chef Adrian Carpenter focuses on local produce. It's heirloom tomato time up here, and Carpenter makes a wonderful salad of sliced multihued heirloom tomatoes, diced watermelon and chiffonade of basil, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil. A glass of (an unnamed) Spanish Albariño tasted great with it, although the first sips of the Torbreck Juveniles 2005 (an Aussie Grenache blend meant for the next course) also worked some magic.

Another restaurant here makes a coarse puree of tomato and watermelon for a delicious gazpacho-like soup, floating matchsticks of jicama in it for crunch. I enjoyed a Simi rosé of Syrah with it.

Getting to the Saturday market early, I scored the last few soft, ripe heirloom tomatoes. I never can remember the varieties, but I got some of the small round orange guys, those cream-flecked amber ones and a couple of medium-size pinkish ruby balls, each one sweeter than the next. I grabbed a bag of organic basil and stopped at the supermarket for one of those Dulcinea individual-size watermelons with the thin skins and the sweet flesh. Then to the butcher shop for a couple of balls of fresh cow's milk mozzarella.

You can guess where I'm going with this. I cut thick slices of tomato and arranged them to fill dinner-size plates, adding diced watermelon over and around the slices. I hit them with some sea salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper, topped them with slices of the milky white mozzarella, chopped up a handful of basil and strew them over the whole thing. A drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a few slices of pane rustico, and that was lunch.

The different levels of sweetness from the tomatoes, watermelon and mozzarella, playing against the herbal notes of the basil and olive oil, kicks the old Caprese salad up a few notches (as a famous TV chef might say). The bottle of Mas Carlot Rose Vin de Pays d'Oc we had open for lunch couldn't have found a better friend than this salad.

Try this summer plate at home. It is not for the experts. Just get the good ingredients and you can't lose.

Maryann Worobiec
Napa, CA —  August 6, 2007 6:40pm ET
Hi, Harvey! Here in Napa, Chef Greg Cole recently added an unusual watermelon creation to his Celadon menu. "Soy braised crispy pork belly with watermelon, rice wine vinegar and asian green herbs." My mouth is watering just typing that in! The pork belly is salty and savory, and the watermelon just crunches in your mouth before washing it all down. And the bitter greens really anchor the whole dish.

My own heirloom tomatoes are coming into stride these days, especially the Cherokee Purples, so I think I'll take your suggestions. But considering my own experiences with pork + watermelon, perhaps I should experiment with some new-wave BLT's.
James Laube
Napa, CA —  August 7, 2007 2:59pm ET
Harv, tried your recipe last night and it worked like a charm.
Domaine Drouhin Oregon
Dayton, OR —  August 7, 2007 5:28pm ET
Hi Harvey,How funny! Just last week, my dear Juliette made a tomato/watermelon/basil gazpacho, based on a Ferran Adria recipe forwarded by a friend in Barcelona. It was fabulous, particularly with a bottle of Camille Saves champagne. Kindly,David Millman
John Miller
Windsor, CA —  August 8, 2007 1:25pm ET
I make Caprese salads almost every night this time of year. I am definitely going to try this, strange as it sounds.

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