To the uninitiated, the Italian pairing of melon and prosciutto may sound odd. But anyone who tries it learns the sweet fruit combines with salty richness into a deceptively simple whole greater than the sum of its parts.
For the height of summer, we kept that lesson in mind as we riffed on the savory-sweet classic in our book “COOKish,” which limits recipes to just six ingredients without sacrificing flavor. A base of watermelon plus savory fresh tomato offers a cooling, vibrantly colored salad that comes together in just minutes.
To keep the dish vegetarian, we skip the cured meat in favor of goat or feta cheese, the richness of which balances the sweet fruit. We temper the pungency of savory shallot with a short soak in white balsamic vinegar, and fresh basil (or mint) adds color and herbal notes.
Don’t forget to salt the melon and tomato first in a colander. This step pulls out excess liquid, which keeps the salad from turning soggy.
TOMATO AND WATERMELON SALAD WITH BASIL AND GOAT CHEESE
2 cups (about 8 ounces) 1-inch cubes watermelon OR honeydew
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into rough 1-inch chunks
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
1 medium shallot, sliced into thin rings
1 cup lightly packed fresh basil OR mint, torn if large
Extra-virgin olive oil, to serve
2 ounces fresh goat cheese OR feta cheese, crumbled (½ cup)
In a colander, toss the melon and tomatoes with ½ teaspoon salt; set aside. In a large bowl combine the vinegar and shallot, then let stand for 10 minutes. Pour off and discard the vinegar, then add the melon-tomato mixture and basil to the bowl. Drizzle with oil and toss, then season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with cheese.