Watermelon is not a very good vegetable.


Remember when you discovered that tomatoes are a fruit? You were five, maybe six, and so proud of this strange, new fact that you proudly, hands-on-hips, told anyone who would listen. Your kindergarten classmates responded with doubt and disbelief followed by acceptance and awe, running off to spread the gospel.

Fruit or not, tomatoes are still at their best when savory, sugars perfectly balanced with acidity and salt. Watermelon is also a fruit, one which, a few years back, chefs decided to pair  with tomatoes and treat  as a vegetable. Watermelons, however, are a poor excuse for a vegetable. Their flavor, when savory, is herbal and watery, their sugary sweetness easily lost.

This gazpacho and 39 more simple, delicious, farm and garden-fresh summer recipes are in my cookbook, Simple Summer.

We discovered this developing a watermelon gazpacho. We mixed Brandywine and Purple Cherokee tomatoes and sweet crisp watermelon with candy sweet onions and a pinch of salt. The tomatoes were delicious. Brandywine and Purple Cherokee are the pinnacle of a classic beefsteak, thick and meaty, a perfect balance of sugar and acidity. The watermelon was weak, barely there. A drizzle of honey brought it back. Fresh basil gave life and depth. Pressing additional fresh watermelon through a food mill provided the extra liquid we needed and a splash of pomegranate vinegar delivered a perfect finish.

Watermelon Gazpacho

The salt brings out the flavors in the tomato and the honey makes the watermelon pop. You’re looking for a good fruity, vegetal balance. Leave out the watermelon juice, add some cumin and serve this as a salsa over fried fish tacos!

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups watermelon diced and separated
  • 1 large Black Cherokee or Brandywine tomato diced, about 2 cups
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp lime zest
  • 2 tbs lime juice
  • 1/2 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 2 tbs basil, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Pomegranate ore red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbs honey

Directions:

  • Mix together 4 cups of the watermelon with the tomato and onion.
  • Add lime zest and juice, jalapeño and basil. Stir together.
  • Press remaining 2 cups of watermelon through a food mill or puree in a food processor. Strain out solids and add to tomato and onion mixture.
  • Add Pomegranate vinegar.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and honey.

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