Watermelon Steak Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes and Sangria Vinaigrette

By: Hannah Lee Leidy
Watermelon steaks on a grill

“I grew up eating Georgia rattlesnake watermelons—that’s really what they’re called, because the dark green stripes resemble a diamondback rattlesnake. These heirloom varietals, which can grow up to forty pounds, have a deep reddish-pink flesh that is sweeter than sweet. Folks started growing them around here in the 1830s. When I was a kid, we’d throw them in the back of the truck and take them to market. Because they are harder to come by now, and because people have grown accustomed to seedless watermelons, I created this recipe to accommodate either. But I absolutely prefer a rattlesnake watermelon, which we grow at Gilliard Farms.”

Matthew Raiford, Bress ‘N’ Nyam: Gullah Geechee Recipes from a Sixth-Generation Farmer.

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    For the salad:
  • 1-1½ pounds freshly mixed salad greens or microgreens
  • 1 pound heirloom tomatoes of varying sizes and colors, such as Cherokee Purple, Yellow Brandywine, and black and yellow cherry tomatoes
  • ¼ medium seedless watermelon (about 5-10 pounds)
  • Olive oil for brushing
  • For the vinaigrette:
  • 1 cup traditional red sangria, either homemade or store-bought
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • Fine sea salt

Make the salad: 

  1. Prepare grill for medium-high direct heat, 375 to 450 degrees. While grill comes up to temperature, wash and dry salad greens, then divide among four to six serving plates. Wash and dry tomatoes. Slice whole tomatoes into ½-inch rounds and halve cherry tomatoes. Divide and arrange tomato slices evenly among the plates. Set plates in refrigerator to chill while you finish the dish. 
  2. Slice watermelon into ¾- to 1-inch-thick “steaks,” then quarter steaks into wedges. Brush each side of watermelon with a little olive oil, then set wedges on grill for approximately 3 minutes per side, until you get grill marks. The longer you leave wedges on, the sweeter they’ll get. Remove watermelon from grill and arrange evenly among salad plates. 

Make the vinaigrette: 

  1. Pour sangria into a large measuring cup with a pouring spout, then whisk in olive oil until it makes a nice, loose vinaigrette. Generously dress salads, sprinkle with pepper and salt to your liking, then serve.
  • Adapted From
    Bress 'N' Nyam: Gullah Geechee Recipes from a Sixth-Generation Farmer. Copyright by Matthew Raiford and Amy Paige Condon, 2021. Used with permission of the publisher, Countryman Press. All rights reserved.

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