Monday, August 17, 2009

Cherry Tomato and Watermelon Salad

Yesterday, since we finally are experiencing summer weather, I decided to make Cook's Illustrated's Cherry Tomato and Watermelon Salad.

Saturday I had visited the South Lansing Farmer’s Market and picked up several of the ingredients needed to make the salad. It was my first visit to the small market, but was excited to see a nice mix of vendors. I purchased some locally grown produce, a Jamaican meat patty and even a cute pair of earrings (with proceeds to send a grandson to college).

At the market, I was able to find cherry tomatoes and fresh mint. From there a quick stop at the regular market for a watermelon, shallot and feta. The rest of the ingredients were in my pantry. I followed the recipe as it was written. The salad took about an hour to prepare. It was a great combination of sweet (from the cherry tomatoes and watermelon) and tangy (from the feta). The mint added a nice coolness which really helped exemplify the flavor of summer.

As the recipe indicates, I let the tomatoes sit for half hour in sugar and salt. This was ample time to chop the rest of my ingredients. I went a bit over 1 cup of watermelon and next time I will increase the watermelon to 2 cups. I would have liked an even mix of tomato to watermelon.

When the tomatoes had sat, there was quite a bit of liquid in the bottom of my bowl. As I spun the tomatoes of their seeds and liquid even more liquid was expelled. It had never occurred to me to spin my tomatoes. I spin everything else – salad green, herbs, why not tomatoes?! I was just able to get a 1/2 cup of liquid from my spinning.

Next time I make this salad, I will either sweat the shallots, by letting them sit for 5- 10 minutes with a bit of salt on them, or gently sauté them before adding my tomato liquid. The shallot flavor was a bit overwhelming in the final salad.

By reducing the liquid from the tomatoes, it gave you a sauce with a great concentrated tomato flavor. Adding the vinegar really helped cut the sweetness that you get from tomatoes. I did not add any additional salt to my final dish, as feta is usually so salty I did not think I would need any additional, and I was right, I didn’t.

This salad would be a great addition to take to a summer picnic or if you looking for a refreshing alternative to traditional salad. By our serving size (about ½ cup), we were able to get 6 servings from this salad. Here is my modified recipe:

Cherry Tomato and Watermelon Salad
Serves 6. Published July 1, 2008. From Cook's Illustrated, slightly adapted
If in-season cherry tomatoes are unavailable, substitute vine-ripened cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes from the supermarket, avoiding pale, unripe ones. If using grape tomatoes, simply cut them in half along the equator (rather than quartering them) to expose the maximum amount of seeds and pulp. If you don’t have a salad spinner, after the salted tomatoes have stood for 30 minutes, wrap the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and gently shake to remove seeds and excess liquid. Strain the liquid and proceed with the recipe as directed. The amount of liquid given off by the tomatoes will depend on their ripeness. If you have less than 1/2 cup of juice after spinning, proceed with the recipe using the entire amount of juice and reduce it to 3 tablespoons as directed (cooking time will be shorter).
2 pints cherry tomatoes , ripe, quartered (about 4 cups) (see note)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Ground black pepper
2 cups watermelon , cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 ounces feta cheese , crumbled (about 1 cup)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves , roughly

Toss tomatoes, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and sugar in medium bowl; let stand for 30 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt on the minced shallot and let rest for about 10 minutes.
Transfer tomatoes to salad spinner and spin until seeds and excess liquid have been removed, 45 to 60 seconds, stirring to redistribute tomatoes several times during spinning. Return tomatoes to bowl and set aside.
Strain tomato liquid through fine-mesh strainer into liquid measuring cup, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible.

Bring 1/2 cup tomato liquid (discard any extra), shallot, and vinegar to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until reduced to 3 tablespoons, 6 to 8 minutes.
Transfer mixture to small bowl and cool to room temperature, about 5 minutes. Whisk in oil and pepper to taste until combined. Taste and season if necessary.

Add watermelon, mint, feta, and dressing to bowl with tomatoes; toss gently and serve.
Jen's note: If you are not immeidately serving the salad, wait and toss the tomato dressing when ready to serve.

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