Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Lobster, Watermelon & Tomato Salad

This past weekend we had a big party for my 65th birthday. Four of our best friends (who happen to be French chefs) came to help us celebrate. There were nearly 100 of us at the BBQ where we watched them prepare the muscles in a creamy wine sauce and cook the red snapper, the whole beef tenderloins, and bananas flambe all right on the grill. Christian Delouvrier (La Mangeoire) brought his famous ratatouille, Jean Louis Dumonet (The Union Club) prepared a fabulous Choron Sauce (A Bernaise sauce made with tomato puree) for the beef and Michel Jean (Stissing House) made delicious rum raisin ice cream to serve with the grilled bananas.  I did actually prepare one dish - my French Potato Salad - the very same recipe I wrote up in this column a few weeks ago.  Jean Luc Colombo served up case upon case of his lovely rosé , white and red wines from the Rhone Valley. While it was all wonderfully delicious and fun for a foodie – what I really need to share with you is the incredible dish that was created the night before the party at my home…

With the chefs and their wives we were about a dozen people. I had, of course, prepared a meal, but one of the chefs (Laurent Manrique) brought 5 cold cooked lobster tails from his restaurant (“Millesime” on Madison & 29th). He asked permission to scavenge my kitchen to see what he could find to put together with the lobster to make an additional appetizer for us.

 “Ah, tu as du pastèque - fantastique!” he said gleefully as he started to cut up my seedless watermelon. He cut it and the lobster into chunks of about the same size and placed them together in a bowl. When he spotted some nice tomatoes he chopped up three or four and added them to the bowl as well. He then emptied the bowl through a strainer reserving the liquid and placing the chunks of lobster, tomatoes and watermelon on a deep dish platter.

He looked me in the eye with a friendly challenge to ask if I had any fresh herbs, and I proudly brought him out onto the deck where I had very recently planted some I had bought at Adams. Joyfully he started picking sprigs of fresh basil, peppermint, and dill and them chopped them up.

“Have you any sherry wine vinegar.. (Thank goodness, I did!) and olive oil?” (I had just gotten a bottle of that great olive oil that Millbrook  Winery sells – thank you Bruce Kimball!!!). Laurent made a vinaigrette and then whisked in the juice that had been strained from the watermelon and tomatoes. He poured this fabulous dressing over the lobster mix, and sprinkled all of the fresh herbs on top. The aromas hit us all as he mixed and then served us. And voila, a beautiful summer salad was created.

I have rarely tasted such a wonderfully refreshing and great tasting dish.  I will make it often. And I understand more than one of the chefs will be adding it to their menus this summer! Why don’t you try it too?

Gerard served an Alsatian Gewurztraminer from Josmeyer which went exquisitely with this bouquet of flavors. And when the dish and the wine combine to each enhance the other, it seems that the planets and stars are perfectly aligned and it is really good to be alive!

Lobster, Tomato & Watermelon Salad
(for 12)
5 cooked lobster tails (cut in chunks)
5 tomatoes (cut in chunks)
¼ of a seedless round watermelon (cut in chunks)
1/3 cup of sherry wine vinegar
2/3 cup of good olive oil (first cold press)
1 bunch fresh basil (chopped)
3 tablespoons of fresh peppermint (chopped)
2 tablespoon fresh dill (chopped)

Mix the lobster, tomato and watermelon chunks in a bowl.
Make a vinaigrette by mixing the vinegar with half of the oil. Whisk. Add the rest of the oil and whisk again. Strain the juices from the lobster, watermelon and tomatoes and whisk into the vinaigrette.
Mix the herbs and sprinkle them over the salad. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and mix. Serve.  

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