Most things I cook and recipes I create are either inspired by something I’ve seen or tasted, with my own take on it, or reverse engineered from something I’ve eaten at a restaurant. Lately, I’ve had a watermelon salad stuck in my head that I had once, years ago. So long ago that I couldn’t remember what was in it.
Back when I was just starting to get as interested in cooking as I was in eating, I was able to go to a cooking demonstration by one of my favorite Top Chefs, Richard Blais. Back then, I had a strict separatist attitude between savory and sweet. I didn’t really like them on the same plate, let alone in the same dish. One of the things Chef Blais made was a watermelon salad with jalapeños. This was pretty close to the savory/sweet line for me but I decided to try it because Blais made it. It was really good. So good that it was a turning point in my thought process about my separatist policies.
I hadn’t really thought about it until I recently came across a picture of me with Chef Blais. Watermelons are starting to show up in grocery stores (at least they are in LA) so I decided to try to recreate what Chef Blais made. Only it’s been years and all I remember was it had watermelon and was spicy. Were there other ingredients from the savory world that gave me pause back then? Was there a salt component?
That’s when I remembered I shot some video of the demo and started going through old hard drives to try and find it. After several missed guesses of where it could be, I finally found the videos. I found the one in which he started making the salad and it ended right after he introduced the dish. What was I thinking?
So now, based on my experiences and more refined cooking skills, I have come up with my version. It’s fairly simple. I use Serrano peppers for the heat, sliced thin with a mandolin. Red onions and cilantro add some sweet and savory components while yuzu gives it a bit of acid. I like to let it sit for a while to let the heat from the Serrano peppers soak into everything. But, much like the citrus salad, wait until you’re ready to serve before adding the onions. If stored with the onions, the entire salad takes on the strong onion aroma. It doesn’t hurt the flavor much but the strong smell scent can be off-putting.
It’s a refreshing salad with a kick and great for barbecues or on its own. Enjoy.
In addition to my interpretations, you can get Richard Blais' new cookbook, Try This at Home: Recipes from My Head to Your Plate.