Sunday, August 9, 2009

Slightly Savory Watermelon Salad

Seasons aren't the most fair entity here in the North East. For about six months a year the earth provides us with nothing, and then in June the fresh produce begins to trickle in: parsley, asparagus, lettuce, strawberries, garlic scapes... By August, the trickle becomes a torrential rainbow-like flood. We don't "just" have watermelon, there are yellow and red melons, beets in gold, and red, and stripes, tomatoes in purple, green, zebra, and so on. There are so many wonders and joys to thoroughly explore with all of your senses!

Unfortunately there is a little bit of a bottle neck in what the human body can consume in a given period of time, no less a limit on the time one has to cherish and worship this bounty in a manner it deserves. The best I can do is incorporate the wealth of my CSA.

Today's recipe is a veganized version of a pairing familiar to foodie dorks, mozzarella and watermelon. Yet, for some reason it has never quite become that popular; likely because watermelon seems to be regarded as a summer-season only produce that we wont hack nature to distribute in winter. This salad doesn't contrast the sweetness of the watermelon, rather compliments it with some slightly sweet slightly sour slightly savory flavors... The saltiness of the ume plum vinegar gives it a nice complexity, the black peppers and basil give it a little substance, and the tofu provides a fantastic textural contrast to the fleshy, juicy bursts of watermelon.

Before I go into the actual recipe, I want to give a little public service announcement on the watermelon rind. If you have the divine grace of getting your hands on an organic watermelon do NOT discard the rind. While the toughness of the green outer skin varies (the above is fairly tender and chewable, I have found solid dark green watermelons to be a little thicker in the rind), the flesh is similar to that of a cucumber. While I am sure there is no shortage of things to do with watermelon rinds, I eat them along with the sweet flesh. Pickling is something I intend to do one of these years...

Slightly Savory Watermelon Salad

1 small watermelon
1 medium bunch basil
1/2 pint of grape tomatoes
8 oz of silken or soft tofu, drained, dried
1 T umeboshi plum vinegar
Pink Himalayan sea salt
Pistachio Oil*

Cut the melon flesh off of the rind, and cut into cubes. Halve the grape tomatoes, Chiffonade the basil. Cube the tofu. Place in a bowl. Sprinkle with vinegar, oil, a few grinds of fresh pepper and a couple of gratings from a salt stone to taste... Toss gently, trying not to break up the tofu.

Serve. I consumed with chop sticks.

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