a summery salad: vine-ripened tomato and watermelon salad

Every summer since my daughter was born, we have spent a glorious week in the summer vacationing in – or very near – Seaside, Florida. If you recall The Truman Show with Jim Carrey, Seaside was the perfect littleĀ  town where the movie was set. Seaside is right on the Gulf of Mexico, and most of the cottages are just a block or two or three off of the pristine white sand beaches. Well, at least they were pristine. Until the oil spill happened. Last summer we ate at Fish Out of Water, in the neighboring Watercolor Resort, for the first time. My sister-in-law and her family were vacationing with us, and they agreed to babysit our kids one evening so Sam and I could have at least one meal out by ourselves. Fish Out of Water had been on my wish-list of restaurants, so we finally had our chance.

My first course was an heirloom tomato and watermelon salad. After one bite – a salty-sweet bite with juicy tomato and watermelon in a to-die-for vinaigrette – I was in heaven. I asked our waiter if he knew the recipe, and he didn’t. Recently I emailed the restaurant to see if the chef would be willing to share it, but I haven’t had any reply yet. So, until I get my hands on their recipe, I decided to experiment a bit. This salad was a good approximation, but the vinaigrette is not what I remembered. I wanted to use heirloom cherry tomatoes, but I used vine-ripened regular tomatoes instead since there were no heirlooms to be found. Some basil and a touch of feta, and the salad was delicious. The right amount of sweet and salty, incredibly juicy, and perfectly refreshing.

Yield: Serves 4-6.

Tomato and Watermelon Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

I've listed amounts for the salad ingredients, but truthfully, this is a salad that doesn't need to be precise. If you like more tomatoes, add more. If you like more watermelon, add more. If you prefer cherry tomatoes instead of regular, those would be great, too.


Ingredients for Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1 small clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup finely chopped fresh basil
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper

Ingredients for Salad

3 cups cubed watermelon, seeds removed
6 vine-ripened tomatoes, cored and seeded, chopped into 3/4 inch pieces
1/4 cup chopped or torn fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup feta (or more or less, depending on your taste)


Make vinaigrette: Mix vinegar and minced garlic in bowl. Whisk in olive oil, then whisk in basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Add watermelon, tomatoes, and torn (or chopped) basil leaves to bowl. Sprinkle with feta. Toss gently with the vinaigrette and let sit for at least 10 minutes or so before serving to allow the flavors to deepen.