This Tomato and Watermelon Salad from SOUTH is Sensational
I first noticed Sean Brock in the iconic Waffle House scene when he ate a late-night meal with Anthony Bourdain in a brilliant episode of Parts Unknown. Both were intoxicated, giggling and raving about the diner food – a “tasting menu” that included a pecan waffle, salad with Thousand Island dressing and a T-Bone steak with eggs. It was compelling TV. Since then, his dear pal and co-diner Sean calls “Tony” has committed suicide, Sean has had a baby son and left Charleston to live in Nashville. He has handed over his restaurants called Husk to a conglomerate and plans to open an eatery soon in his new hometown. He has also produced a superb new cookbook called “South”.
I made several recipes from the book. The fried chicken is top-notch – he makes it without buttermilk in the brine or in the dredge. The biscuits, the cornbread, the Buttermilk Pie and Upside Down Plum Cake are all excellent. The Shrimp and Grits didn’t work because the grits I bought in a package weren’t labelled quick-cooking. This Tomato and Watermelon Salad from the book is now in my repertoire – it is simply sublime.
A note: I also watched a heartwarming video of Sean making Chicken and Dumplings with his mother. I tweaked her recipe substituting boneless skinless chicken thighs for the whole chicken. It was delicious!
Tomato and Watermelon Salad
I halved this salad and served it with the vinaigrette on the side. Sean waxes eloquent in the intro to this recipe about a certain Bradford watermelon grown in the South. Of course, he recommends it. He also recommends heirloom tomatoes. I made this recipe with a locally grown small watermelon and local greenhouse, on-the-vine cherry tomatoes – it was delicious. I feel the secret to this salad is the vinaigrette. He suggests making his recipe for Watermelon Molasses; I used store-bought pomegranate molasses. The contrast with that sweetness and the salty fish sauce is beyond words – try it!
1 cup raw pecan pieces
2 tsp pecan oil or vegetable oil
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ cup pomegranate molasses
2 tsp fish sauce
2 tbsp fresh lime or lemon juice
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp pecan oil or vegetable oil
There should be about an equal amount of diced tomatoes and watermelon.
3 lb/1.5 kg tomatoes, cut in ¾-inch dice
½ ripe large watermelon, rind removed, seeded and cut in ¾-inch dice
2 banana or jalapeno peppers, seeded and sliced in thin rings
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh basil leaves for garnish
For pecans, preheat oven to 325F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Bake pecans in single layer about 10 to 15 minutes until aromatic. Transfer to bowl; toss with oil and salt. Cool and roughly chop.
Shake all ingredients in jar or whisk in bowl until combined.
Combine tomatoes, watermelon, pepper rings and toasted pecans in large serving bowl. Season with salt and pepper; sprinkle with basil leaves.
Makes about 6 servings.