If I’ve noticed one pattern from my multi-course menus it’s that I seem to start most with a burst of fresh fruit. I wrap pears with prosciutto, have a little avocado on toast, serve some tomatoes with a drop of pesto, or enjoy some juicy melon. This kind of amuse-bouche really gets the appetite going and doesn’t weigh you down. And this dish in particular is perfect for refined palates while still being affordable and simple. It’s sweet and cool watermelon with the often neglected part of a tomato balanced with a bit of fresh vinaigrette.It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to pull off this dish, though it does take a bit of knife skills. The key is to approach the fruit with a gentle and focused hand – I could hack away at either the melon or tomato without regard for form and still produce the same great taste, but the tapas would be missing the orderly shape that makes it so elegant. The technique and recipe come from a share of time at two of Jose Andres’s DC restaurants where I worked 10 years ago. The skills came quickly and lasted these ten years. Here’s the step-by-step:
- Lay the watermelon on its side and, using a serrated knife, cut both ends off
- Stand the watermelon up with with one cut end against the cutting board
- Hold the knife at the top between the pink flesh and pale green rind and make one long cut from top to bottom along the curve of the watermelon
- Repeat the cut from top to bottom around the fruit until no more rind remains
- Go back around the fruit to clean up and pale green rind still clinging to the flesh
- Slice the watermelon flesh from top to bottom to make 1-inch discs
- Cut each disk to make 1″x2″ pieces with square corners; nosh on or reserve irregularly shaped pieces
- Refrigerate until ready to serve
- Using a serrated knife, slice the ends from a Roma tomato
- Make a lengthwise cut into the tomato where there is a hollow of seeds, just through the outer layer of skin and flesh
- Hold the tomato and knife all parallel to the cutting board and rotate the tomato to remove the outer layer without damaging the seeds
- Gently cut on either side of each seed membrane to separate from tomato core
- Reserve the tomato flesh for another use
Once the watermelon and tomato are cut to shape the tapa comes together in a flash. Give this a try with some late-summer produce and hang onto those cutting skills for years!
- 4-6 pound seedless watermelon
- 6-8 Roma Tomatoes
- 1 Tablespoons Sherry or White Wine Vinegar
- Juice and Zest of ½ lemon
- 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- Fresh herbs or edible flowers to garnish
- Cut watermelon according to instructions above and store, covered, in the fridge until ready to use.
- Arrange watermelon pieces on a platter. Top each with a piece of tomato membrane. Skewer each piece (a flat and broad skewer works better than a rounded one.)
- Whisk together vinegar, lemon juice and zest, and olive oil in a small bowl. Season lightly with sea salt. Drizzle vinaigrette over watermelon and tomato. Garnish with fresh herbs or edible flowers.