Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Melon Beyond Compare

When I hear home cooks say they want to make restaurant food at home I understand in the sense they want the finished dish to look and taste professional.  However, the number of cooks that achieve that, the layout of the professional kitchen, the dish and potwasher on staff, the surfaces that are easy to clean with ready available refrigeration and table prep areas are all key to making a restaurant dish.

Salads are one of the easiest dishes to assemble in the style of a restaurant.  Care has to be taken to have the salad hit the table when it is needed and not before as fresh and lively are two key components offer satifaction. 

Watermelon has almost countless opportunities as an ingredient.  Here is one style that a friend of mine and I offered in Carmel Valley to a discussion group.  It teaches you how to be a good cook as you make it, step by step.  It also teaches you respect for ingredients, savoring the combinations as part of your success.  This is not the kind of dish I would do on a whim.  There are simple ways of adding watermelon for ease.  Cutting these pave' or paver bricks out of watermelon helps to teach knife technique.  Use the scraps and rest of the watermelon to make a fun gazpacho. Enjoy the journey.  And a heartful thank you! to my friend Dan Kelly for sharing.

Watermelon ‘Pave’ Salad, Baby Heirloom Tomatoes, Plum Gastrique
Prep   Time:  45 minutes
Serve Time:  10 minutes

4             apples
12   oz    white vinegar
8              plums, cut in half, stones removed
8     oz     sugar

1              small watermelon, cut into 1 inch X 4 inch rectangles
½   cup    balsamic vinegar, reduced slowly to about three tablespoon syrup reduction
½   cup    Teardrop Heirloom tomatoes, cut in half
1   bunch watercress, arugula or mizuna washed and drained broken into 3 inch pieces
Sea Salt

Peel, core and chop apples.  Place them in a pot just large enough to hold and cover with water. Cook 20 minutes until a soft purée and strain.  Do not push the pulp, just let it drip for about an hour or more.  Place liquid  back in the pot with vinegar bring to a simmer.  Cook 5 minutes then add the plums.  Simmer slowly until soft. Push the mixture through a strainer.  Place the plum mix back in the pot.  Add the sugar and cook until 225 degrees on a sugar thermometer.  Remove from heat and reserve. This is what we call a gastrique, a tart and sweet reduced sugar syrup. 

Cut watermelon into 1-inch thick pave, place on a platter. Spoon lightly with fruit syrup ‘gastrique’.  Place mixed greens seasoned with sea salt on top of the melon. Drizzle with balsamic glaze.  Garnish plate with cut heirloom tomatoes seasoned with sea salt. Serve immediately.