Summer’s Don’t-Miss Dish from Edible Santa Barbara
Is there anything more delicious than cold, ripe watermelon in the heat of summer? Well, yes actually. When Chef Robert Perez sears watermelon, caramelizing it for this summer dish at The Black Sheep, the iconic red and green fruit is transformed. And it’s more delicious.
Chef Perez’s style of cooking is to take fresh ingredients and transform them into a whole new taste sensation – all while sticking to a base of traditional cooking. It’s also to buy local, and watermelon is consistently available form local growers all summer in Santa Barbara County. They usually show up in our farmers markets around July 1, and just get sweeter all summer.
This particular recipe was born out of Chef Perez’s grandmother’s famous pickled watermelon rinds. He remembers them fondly, eating the rinds during his childhood in the South, but regretfully, never recording the recipe. He tested many recipes to finally get the magic combination for his Picked Watermelon Rind (served with spare ribs or a pickled plate at his new restaurant La Oveja Blanca) and had fruit left over. So he tried grilling the watermelon, getting sweet crunchiness with a moist interior, perfect for a savory-fruity summer salad.
To make the salad, Chef Perez starts with a local, ripe watermelon and cuts it into 3 inch-long rectangles, 1 inch thick – with peel and seeds removed. Sprinkle the watermelon with olive oil, salt and pepper. Make sure the grill is very hot, and then place the watermelon on the grill for 2 to 3 minutes to get some nice grill marks. Then, turn it over to about a minute, just to warm the other side.
On a plate, spread some basil oil (or basil-infused olive oil), and then drizzle it with red wine syrup (made by heating 2 parts red wine, 1 part vinegar, 1 part sugar and some rosemary). Top with tomato concassé (blanched, peeled, seeded & chopped tomatoes), toasted pistachios and micro basil.