|Sweet, Salty and Savory: The Ultimate Summer Salad|
Many years ago, Mr. B and I were wandering around San Francisco running a few errands when our stomachs started to rumble. Finding a lunch spot was never an issue, but on that particular day, Mr. B decided to take us off the beaten path so that we could try out a restaurant that had long been on his radar.
As we tucked into a big platter of deep fried baby artichokes and delicately sauteed octopus, we both commented on the flavorful, but simply tossed greens served as an accompaniment. It was easy to tell that the greens were dressed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, but there was something unique about the balsamic that left us puzzled.
Flash forward to a year or so later when I was browsing the wares in a local culinary shop and came across an entire line of flavored balsamic vinegar from the very same restaurant. Not surprisingly, I was like a kid in a candy shop and loaded up my basket with all sorts of treasures–tangerine, cherry, currant, fig, Myer lemon–to fill my pantry.
While I’d like to say that I quickly went through my new stash, aside from using them to drizzle on fresh tomatoes during the height of my summer harvest, the truth is that more often than not, I forgot them in the back of the cupboard. Thankfully, vinegar never goes bad and after 15 years, I still have an amply supply to get me through a few more seasons.
Not too long ago on a particularly hot summer evening, Mr. B was manning the grill and I was trying to think of a hearty enough salad to serve along with our steaks, but I wanted something that would be refreshing, too. I’ve always loved a good watermelon and tomato salad with feta cheese, but too often they leave me longing. So, after a stroll through my garden, I decided to up the ante with fresh herbs and greens, lots of black pepper and, of course, my tangerine balsamic vinegar. The result–the most perfectly satisfying and flavorful watermelon and tomato salad that I’ve ever eaten and the perfect way to make use of a bumper tomato harvest.
Mel’s Ultimate Watermelon and Tomato Salad
4 cups of ripe watermelon cubed in 1-2 inch chunks
3-4 ripe heirloom tomatoes (I used Cherokee Purple and Red Brandywine)
2 fist-fulls of fresh arugula, torn into bite size pieces and any coarse stems removed
1 fistful of fresh basil; chiffonade
1 fistful of fresh flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1/2 to 1 fistful of fresh mint (not spearmint); chiffonade
1 fistful of good quality feta cheese
tangerine balsamic vinegar, or high-quality balsamic with a teaspoon or so of finely grated tangerine zest
salt and pepper to taste
1. In a large wooded salad bowl, gently toss all ingredients, except feta cheese together; let sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
2. Transfer to a large serving platter and to with crumbled feta cheese, salt and freshly ground black pepper.
3. Sever with a glass of chilled rose’ and a good sunset.