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Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Serves: 6

Hands On Time: 

Total Time: 


Pickled Red Onion
1 red onion, sliced into half moons
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
Basil Vinaigrette
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
1 (0.75-ounce) package fresh basil, leaves picked
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 small seedless watermelon, cut into wedges
4 heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 cup goat cheese, crumbled


To make the pickled onion: Place the sliced onions in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Strain the hot pickling liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into the bowl with the onions. Let the onions sit in the pickling liquid at room temperature for 2 hours.
To make the basil vinaigrette: Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and purée until the basil has completely broken down and the mixture becomes a homogenous sauce.
To make the salad: Place three wedges of watermelon onto each of six serving plates. Divide the sliced tomatoes across the watermelon wedges, and repeat with the goat cheese. Top each salad with 2 tablespoons of basil vinaigrette and garnish with slices of pickled red onion.

Photo Credit: Lauren Booker

About the recipe

This salad captures the spirit of summer on a plate by highlighting tomatoes and watermelon at the peak of their season. Heirloom tomatoes are single-variety tomatoes that have not been hybridized with other varieties of tomato. Hybridization breeds tomatoes with more uniformity and commercial appeal; however, the process mutes much of the flavor. Heirloom tomatoes retain more of their purity of flavor and bright intensity, and are typically only available from June through early September. 

The basil vinaigrette is more closely related to a French pistou, which is essentially a pesto sauce without any nuts or cheese. Since the tomatoes and pickled onions bring acidity to the dish, the basil vinaigrette only uses enough lemon to bring out the flavor of the herb.