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Tomato + Watermelon = Friends Forever

tomato-watermelon salad
Salad today, soup tomorrow.

During the peak season for any particular piece of produce, it's common to find that its flavor friends are also hitting a high.

Asparagus, ramps and morels in the springtime. Tomatoes, basil and cucumbers in the summer. Apples, sage and butternut squash in the autumn. Rutabaga and... well, rutabaga might be the lonely exception.

When I found a recipe for "Tomato & Watermelon Salad" from Bill Smith's delicious volume, Seasoned in the South, I was initially a bit put off. Tomatoes and watermelons? Really? Yes, really. Really good, actually.

As it turns out, tomatoes and watermelon — both in full flush at the markets right now — are also natural meal companions.

Tomato & Watermelon Salad (Serves 4-6)

5 cups ripe, bite-sized watermelon chunks, seeded as best you can, but don't go crazy
1 1/2 pounds very ripe tomatoes, finely chunked
3 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small red onion, peeled, quartered, and thinly sliced
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup good, strong-flavored extra-virgin olive oil

Toss the melon and tomatoes with the sugar and the salt. Let sit for 15 minutes. Then fold in the onions, vinegar, and oil. Serve very cold. This salad is amazingly refreshing.
And he's right. It's fast, it's easy, it's slightly unusual and, to quote Cosmo Kramer, it's "very refreshing!"

Best of all, I found you can very easily serve up any leftovers the next day pureéed as a gazpacho.

For every four cups of leftover salad, just add a finely minced chile pepper (or less, depending on your heat tolerance) and a teaspoon or two of ground cumin. Pureé, then adjust the flavor to taste with some salt and lime juice. Stir in a small cucumber (chopped into 1/2-inch chunks) and serve with a garnish of cilantro or mint.

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8.10.2006

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