Monday, June 28, 2010

Tomato and Watermelon “Tartare” with Goat Cheese-Pistachio Vinaigrette

I was invited to attend a class taught by Chef David Bull at the Central Market cooking school, and the topic of the class was vegetarian dishes and wine pairings. David Bull doesn’t usually focus on vegetarian cooking as you can see in his dinner menu at Bolla at the Stoneleigh Hotel in Dallas, but he’s always happy to prepare vegetarian tasting menus upon request and there is always a vegetarian option or two on his menus. During the class, Bull spoke about textural contrast in food and recognizing ingredients for inherent flavors and balancing them. He also demonstrated some interesting knife techniques like holding the handle up and the point down when slicing avocados to prevent the slices from sticking to the blade. He created seven dishes for the class: avocado mousse with sprouts jicama jalapeno and grapefruit, cucumber summer rolls with yellow curry and coconut, white gazpacho with red grapes soy milk and toasted almonds, tomato and watermelon “tartare,” watercress salad with Texas peaches and buttered brioche, daikon noodles with green beans, and potato gnocchi with oven roasted tomatoes and black olive oil. (gazpacho, peaches, summer roll, and gnocchi are shown below)

This fall, Bull will be opening two new restaurants in Austin. Congress will be a fine dining, dinner-only restaurant, and Second at Congress will be a more casual spot with patio and terrace seating serving brunch, lunch, and dinner. Connecting the two will be Bar Congress serving appetizers and cocktails. Bull mentioned he’s working with farmers to determine how much of the menus can be sourced locally. You can also find Bull’s cuisine in an interactive format. His online cookbook is called Bull’s Eye on Food, and you can search recipes by title, type, or ingredient. Once you choose a dish to prepare, you can enter the number of people you’ll be serving, and the quantities in the ingredient list will be re-calculated for that number. It will also generate shopping lists and even send the list to a smart phone. The other nice interactive feature of this book is that new recipes are added all the time. The vegetarian dishes prepared for the class were added just after being presented.

I sampled and enjoyed all of the dishes from the class, although the wine pairings didn’t uncover any new favorites for me. The white gazpacho was surprisingly good because of how well-balanced it was. I expected something a bit on the sweet side, but instead it was crisp, cool, a little tangy, only slightly sweet, and was delightful with the almonds on top. The cucumber rolls were fresh, crunchy, and light. I considered making those with some added stick-like pieces of tofu. And, the watercress salad with peaches and buttered brioche with a peach puree and red wine vinegar sauce was outstanding. That would be a beautiful brunch dish. Last, I was thrilled to watch the gnocchi being prepared as I’ve lived in fear of attempting to make it myself for so long. I think I’m almost ready to try it now. But, the dish I had to try right away to make at home was the tomato and watermelon "tartare." It was summery and brightly-flavored with hints of savoriness from shallots and red onion. The goat cheese dressing was delicious as was the pistachio vinaigrette, and when the two were swirled together with a bite of the tartare, it was excellent.

While demonstrating this recipe, Bull explained that he was including chef’s techniques and that a home version could be simplified. I chose to make a simplification or two; I admit it. I didn’t bother preparing the tomato concasse. I left it unpeeled and just seeded it. I did make the watermelon rind pickles, but my julienne on them and on the celery pieces could have been thinner. I was happy with the ring-molded shape of the salad, and pressing excess liquid from the contents of the mold, as instructed, is necessary for it to hold together well. Then, it’s very pretty on the plate with a sprinkling of chopped pistachios and the dressings drizzled here and there. The complete, chef-version of the recipe is below.

recipe re-printed with Chef's permission
Tomato and Watermelon "Tartare" with Goat Cheese-Pistachio Vinaigrette

3 heirloom tomatoes
1 1/2 c seedless watermellon, small diced, rind reserved for celery salad
1 tablespoon shallots, brunoise
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt

-prepare the tomatoes concasse by blanching them, shocking them in cold water, peeling the skins, seeding them, and then dicing them.
-in a small mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and season with salt

pickled watermelon rind:
1/2 cup watermelon rind, peeled and all red fruit removed, julienned
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
1/4 cup sugar

-combine the vinegar and sugar in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. reduce mixture by half and chill completely.
-pour the chilled mixture over the watermelon rind in a bowl and allow to sit for 20-30 minutes.
-remove the rind and drain the liquid. reserve the rind for the celery salad.

celery salad:

1 cup celery hearts, loosely packed
1/2 cup celery, finely julienned
1/2 cup pickled watermelon rind
1/8 cup red onion, fine julienne
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt

-in a small mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients.

goat cheese dressing:
1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon sea salt

-mix all ingredients together in a small mixing bowl until completely. should be the consistency of yogurt.

pistachio vinaigrette:
1/4 cup pistachios, toasted, salted, and ground
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
lemon juice, to taste

-toast pistachios in a 350 degree F oven for about six minutes. remove from oven, season with salt, and grind them in a food processor until finely crumbled. reserve some ground pistachios for garnish.
-mix the remaining pistachios with the rest of the ingredients in a small mixing bowl until completely combined.


-place the tartare into ring molds and press with a clean kitchen towel (or paper towel) to release some of the juice. unmold the tartare onto plates.
-top tartare with celery salad and toasted, ground pistachios.
-drizzle the goat cheese dressing and pistachio vinaigrette around the plate and serve.


  1. this is a refined tartare! Fresh and scrumptious!



  2. Oh my, how delicious and very gourmet dish Lisa.

  3. Wow, what a great combination...watermelon and tomatoes...beautiful color. Nice Summer dish :-)

  4. Extremely elegant! I love it!

    I look forward to your gnocchi post - you are way ready for it... :-)

  5. wow, this recipe sounds amazing and so does the cooking class!

  6. Are you sure that isn't tuna?
    Gorgeous take on tartare! I love the combo!

  7. the combination of tomato and watermelon sounds really refreshing!

  8. Normally I stay away from all kinds of tartares, they are really not my thing. I love your take on this, this is actually something i could really get into :)

  9. The tomatoes and watermelon - 2 become 1 ! Gorgeously beautiful!

  10. That sounds like a fantastic tasting class! I would have wanted to try all of those dishes.

    This one is quite intriguing though, as I've never seen anything like it before. A little sweet, a little tart, a little tangy. Your taste buds must have been very happy!

  11. what fun! see, normal tartare is not for me--i get squeamish about such things. i would enjoy this dish very much, and i love its elegant presentation!

  12. Thanks for sharing this. Didn't get to attend but was very interested. Can't wait to try the pistachio vinaigrette.

  13. This looks delicious. I love little classes like this. You get some new ideas.

  14. The class sounds like a wonderful experience Lisa! And what a gorgeous sounding recipe-clean, fresh and flavoursome! :D

  15. A beautiful and elegant summer dish, Lisa! Marvelous combo of ingredients. What fun classes like this are. Your photos did the dishes justice, too.
    Going to check the online cookbook now.

  16. I have no doubt this tomato and watermelon tartare is absolutely delicious, but the first photo is simply breathtaking! Thank you for the complete recipe and the link to Chef Bull's interactive cookbook (as well as your own tips for adapting). 8-)

  17. This presents so well, and looks like it would taste amazing. What a great class!

  18. omg! this is awesome! I just love the juicyness taste of the tomato and watermelon. you had goat cheese too, just fantastic! :)

  19. I love this trompe d'oeil dish! So clever and beautiful looking.

  20. Wow! That looks fantastic! I don't like goat cheese, but I would love to try it using a different cheese.

  21. Erica: Any soft, crumbly cheese would work great. Or, you could make a dressing with sour cream or yogurt.

  22. I wish I'd seen this post a few days ago when I had two seedless watermelons that weren't being eaten fast enough. I love pairing watermelon with goat cheese, and your tartare looks stunning! The class sounds like it was a lot of fun!

  23. beautiful photos and recipe, if you want to come in my kitchen

  24. I love watermelon in salads. I especially love it in savory ways. I hope you spared at least one thought of me in your amazing class. How I would have loved to have been there with you!

  25. Wow, this just looks absolutely incredible, what a tasty and elegant starter. Lisa, you've inspired me with this deliciousness.

  26. That sounds like a really fun class Lisa and I love your take on the tomato tartar... Great idea for a dish anyway!

  27. The tartare is so refreshing and elegant.

  28. Very refreshing! Tomatoes and watermelon are an interesting pair, but they work. The bright red hue is nice as well.

  29. You just have the thing to make summer look so pretty and juicy!! so very fresh and lovely.


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