Thursday, August 13, 2009

tomato and melon salad with ricotta

Tomato: fruit or vegetable? This question has plagued children and culinarians for centuries. (To botanists, the answer is relatively straightforward.) And perhaps there is reason for the taxonomic confusion. Yes, the tomato is technically a fruit — the “ripened ovary of a seed plant.” But science doesn’t always agree with intuition (according to which tomatoes = savory = vegetable)—nor, in this case, does it agree with the U.S. legal system; an 1893 Supreme Court ruling classified tomatoes as a vegetable as such so that they could be taxed under tariff law.

Of course, this both explains, and complicates, the tomato’s identity crisis. But fortunately, its vegetable and fruitlike components find the perfect consummation in a tomato + fruit salad. The combination is at first surprising, but, once you taste it, completely intuitive.

Tomato Salad
Adapted from Dan Barber in Chef Interrupted, by Melissa Clark

I've experimented with most summer fruits here: melons, apricots, peaches, etc. But the cantaloupe & watermelon combination is a perennial favorite.

3 large heirloom tomatoes, cut into ¾-inch wedges
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup cubed seedless watermelon
3/4 cup cubed cantaloupe
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup fresh sheep’s milk ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons high-quality extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped mixed fresh herbs (basil, lemon thyme, mint, purslane)

1. Divide heirloom and cherry tomatoes and melon among 4 bowls. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and let rest for 10 to 20 minutes, until tomatoes and melon begin to give off their juices.

2. Dot the tomatoes with spoonfuls of the cheese, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with herbs. Serve immediately.

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