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Spoon Fed: Summer's delight

Aug. 13, 2014 at 11:12 a.m.


Thai basil and watermelon cooler

• 3 small Thai basil leaves

• 4 small cubes golden watermelon

• 1 Tbsp. sugar

• 11/2ounces Tito's Vodka

• 1/2 ounces St-Germain

• Club soda

Muddle basil, watermelon and sugar in a Collins glass. Fill the glass with ice.

Add vodka and St-Germain, and top off with club soda. Stir well and enjoy.

Tomato Watermelon Salad

• 20 black cherry tomatoes (peeled)

• 3 cups golden watermelon, large diced

• 20 small basil leaves or four or five large basil leaves torn into small pieces

• 8 oz. fresh goat cheese

• 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

• Sea salt

• Fresh cracked pepper

Divide tomatoes, watermelon and basil among four plates. Crumble goat cheese over the top. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Two of summer's greatest fruits, enjoyed in a variety of ways yet rarely together - tomatoes and watermelons - bring delight to any summer menu.

I've been eating and enjoying watermelon all my life. Tomatoes, however, took more time to seduce to my palate.

Hot beaches, sticky fingers and juicy, delicious red fruit are the most vivid memories of my childhood summers spent on the beautiful beaches of South Texas.

So I knew when I decided to grow a garden here in Victoria, watermelon would be among the selected fruits.

What I didn't know was the sheer volume of space they would take up.

My watermelon patch has taken up roughly one-quarter of my entire garden.

I chose for the garden - for no other reason than I enjoyed the name - to grow Texas golden watermelon.

It was a great choice, and moreover, the fruit has been amazing. Although its color is more similar to cantaloupe, its flavor is exactly like bright, red watermelon.

My family eats watermelon daily now - by itself, in salads, grilled, with cheese even in many of our favorite summer cocktails.

And while I don't have childhood memories with tomatoes, they have also taken over as one of my favorite fruits.

Just like the watermelon, tomatoes grow in my garden, and we eat them in many ways during summer.

Many of the tomatoes don't make it from the garden to the house - for various reasons - but the ones that do are plentifully cooked, sun-dried, oven-dried, used in salads or liquefied for cocktails.

I made the mistake of growing two different indeterminate varieties of tomatoes in the garden this year, which means they're a variety that grows out of control.

Both varieties grew more than 8 feet high, and that was with avid pruning and daily maintenance.

My Berkeley Tie-Dye tomatoes are large, beautiful tomatoes while the black cherry tomatoes are a small, sweet variety that look, as one might assume, like cherries.

Combining the garden-grown tomatoes with the watermelon brings out the sweetness of the fruits and amplifies the richness in the watermelon.

My absolute favorite way to eat them is together in a simple salad comprised of watermelon, tomatoes, basil and fresh goat's cheese.

This is a variation on a salad I enjoyed when I was living in New York City. Jean Georges, a famed New York City restaurant, makes a simple melon salad with goat cheese, olive oil and salt and pepper.

And after making it endless times over the years, Nate, a cook I formerly worked with at The Bacara Resort and Spa in Santa Barbara, Calif., suggested we put together a tomato and watermelon salad.

Thus, one of my favorite summer salads was created. And I've been combining watermelon and tomato in various ways ever since.

I hope you enjoy the following tomato and watermelon creations.

And be sure to follow Spoon Fed next week for more savory, seasonal inspiration in your kitchen.

Chef Shannon Cummins trained at the International Culinary Center and is the general manager at The Sendera. Contact Cummins for information about specialized catering, The Sendera or to talk food at Chefshannon1@aol.com.

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