Tomato Chile Melon Salad

Photo of Tomato Chile Melon Salad

Tomato Treasure
This is the time of year when tomatoes are at their best. And, if you are growing your own, chances are you have more than you can handle. For me, that was always the best part of gardening. There is nothing better than a homegrown tomato. Giving a portion of your bumper crop to someone who understands and appreciates that a homegrown tomato is worth its weight in gold is just as satisfying as eating one. In fact, I tended to over-plant just so I could give some away. Mainly to my mother who lived for a summer tomato sandwich.

Time constraints and squirrel invaders have prevented me from planting a tomato garden in recent years. So, I have become hopefully dependent upon the generosity of my tomato-growing friends and I am beyond grateful when they share.

Summer tomatoes make the best meals because they don’t require you to do anything with them. They are basically the perfect snack. The flavors are so good that to hide them under or in a heavy sauce or as an ingredient in a complex recipe is in my mind criminal. If you ask my husband, the best way to eat a summer tomato is to slice it up, sprinkle it with a bit of sea salt and eat it with a fork. That was how my grandmother liked to eat hers, too. But, she would also serve them sliced alongside some avocado wedges and sprinkled with a little bit of Italian dressing (and an occasional dollop of mayo). I think that is one of my favorite “salads” that I serve with grilled steaks. Having a variety of heirloom tomatoes sliced on a platter can be a very pretty yet simple side dish addition to any meal.

I think if I had to pick my favorite way to eat peak-of-season tomatoes, though, it would be sliced and set atop some creamy fresh burrata cheese that has been spread on a slice of toasted baguette. Heaven! (Add a little prosciutto and you have the perfect picnic!) This is probably why this Tomato Chile Melon Salad recipe appeals to me so much. It’s basically an appetizer platter in a bowl.

Tomato Chile Melon Salad
Yields 4 Servings

Adapted from the cookbook Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables by Joshua McFadden

1 1/2 pounds mixed heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 1/2 pounds ripe cantaloupe, seeded, rind removed, and cut into 1/2-inch crescents
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped oil-packed Calabrian peppers (or piquillo peppers, or pepperoncini for less heat)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 small handful basil leaves
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 balls burrata (or very fresh mozzarella)

Put the tomatoes and melon into a large bowl, season generously with salt and black pepper.

Toss gently. Add the peppers and vinegar and toss again. Taste and adjust the salt, black pepper, pickled peppers, and vinegar to make your preferred sweet-tart-heat balance.

Add the basil and 1/4 cup olive oil and toss again.

Right before serving, pull apart the burrata and distribute it over the salad. Toss gently with clean hands and serve.

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