One of the first fresh meals I learned how to make from my summer garden after moving to Stony Ridge Farm in 2009 was a Tomato Watermelon Salad. The speed and stress of my former life in Baltimore did not leave much time for kitchen innovation. Most of the meals I made for the kids and myself were what you might call traditional American: roasted meats, freshly baked loaves of bread, salads with ingredients from the supermarket, and soups. The thought of putting tomatoes, watermelon, cheese, and herbs together in a bowl was very exotic to my way of approaching the kitchen. Now, it is a summer go-to meal.
We’re not very good at growing watermelon, so I buy them from the local farm stands, but all the other fresh herbs and vegetables in this recipe come from my August garden. The feta comes from our local dairy. I feel like I’m eating the summer sunshine with every single bite!
Tomato Watermelon Salad
- One small watermelon. You might like seedless for ease of preparation, but remember those seeded watermelons are heirloom varieties and eating them helps keep the seed pool diversified. The different watermelon varieties do have different flavors, noticeable mostly in their amount of sweetness, so try different varieties when you can.
- 1-2 pounds of tomatoes or 1 quart of cherry tomatoes. This is a good time to select those heirloom varieties with their different colors. It makes a festive presentation.
- A half pound of feta cheese.
- A bunch of basil.
- Olive oil – a lovely salad variety.
- Balsamic vinegar.
- Sea salt and fresh ground pepper.
Preparation will take 40 minutes.
- Cut the watermelon in half and either dice up the watermelon or use a scooper to make melon balls and place them in a cullender to drain. Place the cullender in a larger bowl to catch the watermelon juice.
- Dice your tomatoes or half your cherry tomatoes and place them in another cullender to drain, using the same process as above.
- After about 20 minutes place the watermelon and tomatoes in your salad bowl. Break up your feta and sprinkle over top.
- Remove basil leaves from stems and roughly chop. Use at least a cup of the chopped basil leaves, but as much as you like. Perhaps, set some aside to sprinkle over top after serving.
- Using the basic ratios for a vinaigrette as described by The Kitchn, we’ll make a dressing using the watermelon juice, tomato juice, olive oil, and vinegar: use 1/4 cup watermelon juice, 1/4 cup tomato juice, 1tablespoon of the balsamic, and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Place these ingredients in a mason jar, lid and shake.
- Gently mix ingredients in the salad bowl, add vinaigrette and gently mix again. Salt and pepper to taste. I let this sit at room temperature for 20 minutes or so to allow the flavor to mix before serving.
- When serving, place bowls of feta and basil on the table to allow everyone to amend their salad to taste.
Using the watermelon and tomato juices:
You can flavor your summer drinks and cocktails with ice cubes made with the watermelon juice and tomato juice. Freeze separately, not mixed. Uses include watermelon ice cubes in sparkling water, tomato ice cubes in bloody marys. Be creative. If you release the cubes once frozen and place them in a plastic container with a tight lid, you can use these flavored ice cubes well into the fall. And, while I’m thinking about it, why not add some chopped basil to the tomato juice before freezing for added flavor?
If you are a gardener or belong to a farm share program, you will have plenty of ingredients for this salad, or a variation of this salad beginning in July and going through early September. When basil is not easily available, try adding parsley or mint as your fresh herb. Tired of watermelon, try using a ripe and fragrant cantaloupe. Too many cucumbers? Add them to the recipe above. What is nice about seasonal eating with fresh and local ingredients is that recipes are more about a technique that can be applied to each week’s harvest, rather than a steadfast formula for a one-time meal.
As always, if you try the recipe, please leave us a comment and tell us how it worked out. Thanks!