Whole salad1

It’s hot. And sticky. In case you hadn’t heard San Diego had a brief respite from drought over the weekend and enjoyed a tropical storm. Now on the East Coast when this happens, people give a sigh of relief because a storm usually clears away the humidity. Not so here. The storm has mostly moved on but we’re enjoying 85 percent humidity and 90-degree temps. Ick.

We need relief. And perhaps so do you and your clients. Several months ago I came across a little piece online somewhere that showed a watermelon pizza. It immediately caught my eye, but, eh. It was really just a fruit salad on a slice of watermelon. Interesting, but not especially original. The concept stuck with me, however, and what I realized was that I wanted a savory watermelon pizza.

Watermelon salad is one of my favorite dishes this time of year as the temps start to climb. One of my all time most enjoyable versions is served at a local restaurant, Urban Solace. Every bite is different, filled with cherry tomatoes and arugula, feta and currants, toasted pine nuts and cucumbers. And it’s tossed with a sweet vinaigrette.

Once the seasons turned and the weather warmed up I was able to translate this concept in my head to a dish. I gathered a baby watermelon, cherry tomatoes, a hot house cucumber (Japanese or Persian–all with no seeds–will do as well), an onion, pine nuts, kalamata olives, arugula, currants, and goat cheese.

I also went out to my little garden and nabbed some a couple of stems of my treasured mojito mint (it’s a little less astringent than peppermint or spearmint) and basil. This is a “pesto perpetuo” variety of basil, which grows as a perennial.

Mojito mint and Pesto Perpetuo Basil

With these herbs, along with white wine vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper, I made a vinaigrette.

Basil Mint Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced
1 tablespoon fresh mint, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Whisk together all the ingredients except the olive oil. Then slowly whisk in the oil until all the ingredients are blended together and the dressing emulsifies. Set aside.

With that done, I sliced what needed slicing and put the “pizza” together.

Slice the watermelon about an inch thick and place on a flat surface. If you want, you can grill the watermelon slices to create an altogether different kind of flavor. But, for me the point is to stay away from heat so I just start layering.

layer 1

First you add the cucumbers.

layer 2

Then come the tomatoes. If you have access to heirloom cherry tomatoes, you’ll have even more color and flavor.

layer 3

Next come sliced kalamata olives and onion. I like a sweet white onion, like this, or red onion.

layer 4-cheese balls

Goat cheese can be difficult to work with, so I use a small melon baller.

Finally, I scatter the top with currants and toasted pine nuts. Make a bed with the arugula and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Then quarter the slice.


You can serve quarters as an appetizer or a whole slice as a lunch, accompanied with some crusty bread.

What’s your go-to dish for summer heat waves? What do your clients request?

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