Cooking Demo 2 at the Old Saybrook Farmers Market

My second demo at the Old Saybrook Famers Market:  two watermelon salads, a beet soup and Shakshuka.  A celebration of all things red.

It was a bit soggy:


But the intrepid souls who showed up in the rain liked my creations.  A special Thank You to my brother-in-law John Piurek, and his wife Dee, who helped me with the demo.

Here are ingredients for the four dishes arranged on my chopping block at home:

From left the right: 1) onion, beets, chicken stock, yogurt, cream, butter and chives for Chilled Beet Soup; 2) peppers, garlic, tomatoes, harissa, eggs and yogurt for Shakshuka; and 3a) watermelon, mint, green beans, olives and feta for a Ballymaloe Watermelon Salad (also pumpkin and sunflower seeds, olive oil and fresh squeezed lime juice, not shown) and 3b) watermelon, heirloom tomatoes, burrata and a poblano chile & ramp salsa for an Essex Restaurant Watermelon Salad.

Ballymaloe Beet Soup

I spent a week in July at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, County Cork, Ireland. The school is located on a 100-acre organic farm and helped to launch the farm-to-table movement in Ireland and Europe. This is one of the soups I learned to make at the school. This cooking method produces a beet soup of extraordinary color.


  • 2 lbs fresh beets
  • 8 oz chopped onions
  • 2 oz (½ stick) salted butter
  • salt, pepper and sugar
  • approx 5 cups of light chicken stock (I only needed 4 cups)
  • ½ cup light cream
  • 1 ¼ cup natural, unsweetened yogurt
  • 5 T of chopped chives (and chive flowers if available)


  1. Wash the beets under cold running water being careful not to break the skin with your hands. Leave the little tail on them and about 2 inches of the stems intact so as not to allow the beets to bleed.
  2. Place the beets into a saucepan that they fit snugly into and cover with boiling water. Add a pinch of salt and sugar.
  3. Cover, bring to a boil and simmer until the beets are cooked. The cooking time depends on the size and they can take anything from 20 minutes for tiny little beets to two hours for larger ones. They are cooked when the skin rubs off easily. Don’t use a knife to test if they are cooked as this will also cause bleeding.  Test them with your hands, using a towel or an oven mitt if necessary.
  4. While the beets are cooking, melt the butter and allow to foam. Add the onions, coat in the butter, and sweat very gently until soft, tender and uncolored.  At Ballymaloe, they sweat onions by putting parchment paper right on top of the onions.  This cooks them in their own steam better than covering the pan with  a lid.  The medium-sized beets I used took an hour to cook, and I sweated the onions under parchment paper for this whole time.  They were soft, but still pure white.
  5. When the beets are cooked, peel, chop coarsely and add to the onions.
  6. Add just enough boiling chicken stock to cover and season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. This turned out to only be a quart of stock in my case. Bring to a boil and simmer for just 1 minute.
  7. Now purée in a food processor to achieve a smooth and silky consistency. Allow to cool completely. Add yogurt and a little cream. Check seasoning, adding a little sugar if necessary. Serve chilled with a swirl of yogurt and lots of chopped chives and a few chive flowers if available.

Ballymaloe Watermelon Salad

This is one of the salads we learned to make at the school.  I added Greek olives to the recipe.  The contrast of the sweetness of the watermelon (make sure you use a really sweet ripe one) and the saltiness of the feta and the olives is awesome.


  • 8 oz green beans
  • ½ ripe watermelon, deseeded
  • 5 T seeds, such as a mix of pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds
  • a small bunch of mint, roughly chopped
  • 8 oz feta cheese
  • 6 Greek olives, pitted and halved
  • Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • Freshly squeezed juice of one lime
  • Greens, such as arugula
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Blanch the green beans in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes, then refresh quickly under cold water and drain well.
  2. Chop the watermelon into 1-inch cubes, then put into a large serving bowl.
  3. Add the blanched beans, seeds, mint leaves and olives, toss gently.
  4. Cut the feta into cubes and scatter over the top.
  5. Drizzle over a little extra virgin olive oil, and correct seasoning.
  6. Squeeze over the lime.
  7. Serve on a bed of greens, such as arugula. (Also good on its own without the greens)

Essex Restaurant Watermelon Salad

This recipe is inspired by a salad that The Essex Restaurant is serving right now. It combines watermelon with heirloom tomatoes, stracciatella (the inside of burrata, a type of mozzarella cheese) and a salsa of poblano peppers and ramps, which they make at the Essex Restaurant and which you can buy there.  The combined taste of the poblano chile and the ramps is divine.  Ramps are wild leeks that grow in the Connecticut woods for two weeks in May.  See my blog Ramps!.


  • ½ ripe watermelon, deseeded
  • 4-5 medium heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  • stracciatella from two burrata
  • The Essex Restaurant Poblano Chile & Ramp Salsa
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Slice the heirloom tomatoes and arrange on a platter.
  2. Chop the watermelon into 1-inch cubes, then arrange on top of the tomatoes..
  3. Pull the stracciatella from two burrata and arrange dollops of it on top of the watermelon and tomatoes.
  4. Plate on a bed of greens, such as arugula. (Also good on its own without the greens)
  5. Drizzle some of the salsa over the plated salad.

[See Update below.]


This is from the Jerusalem Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Samy Tamimi.


  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T harissa
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 2 large red peppers. cut into 1/4 inch dice (about 2 cups)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 5 large very ripe tomatoes, chopped (about 5 cups)
  • 4 free-range eggs, plus 4 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup thick yogurt
  • salt


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and add harissa, tomato paste, peppers, garlic, cumin, amd 1/4 tsp salt.  Stir and cook over meium heat for about 8 minutes to allow the peppers to soften.
  2. Add the tomatoes, bring to a gentle simmer, and cook for a further 10 minutes until you have quite a thick sauce.  Taste for seasoning.
  3. Make 8 little dips in the sauce.  Gently break the eggs and pour each into its own dip.  Do the same with the yolks.  Use a fork to swirl the egg whites a little bit with the sauce, taking care not to break the yolks.
  4. Simmer gently for 8 to 10 minutes until the egg whites are set, but the yolks are still runny.  You can cover the pan with a lid if you wish to hasten the process.
  5. Remove from heat, leave for a couple of minutes, then spoon into individual plates and serve with the yogurt.


I went back to the Essex Restaurant and tried their heirloom tomato and watermelon salad.  They had changed it to use thin round slices of watermelon, cherry tomatoes, pickled ramps rather than the salsa, and feta instead of stracciatella.  Or who knows, maybe that is what it was always like because I had only heard about it and not eaten the “previous version.”  Here’s what it looked like:

I decided I liked my version better, and got to talking with some of the staff at the Essex about it and we thought about stacking the watermelon and tomato, so I played with that idea, and this is what I came up with:

It’s a slice of red watermelon cut to the same size and shape as the slice of yellow tomato above it, which in turn is topped with sliced red cherry tomatoes tossed in the poblano/ramp salsa, and then the whole thing topped with a dollop of stracciatella.  It’s both beautiful and delicious,  You need a steak knife to eat it.

At the risk of carrying a good thing too far, I am now in possession of yellow watermelon and yellow cherry tomatoes.  We’ll see what happens.

Another Update

I did go too far with the stacking idea, so I won’t show that, but I did another version of tomato-watermelon salad this weekend (September 23rd).  This was inspired by Angie Brenner, the co-author of the Tree of Life Cookbook, which I have blogged about before. See A Turkish Feast

I finally met Angie at my brother’s house last weekend, where she turned me onto the idea of roasting cured black olives and using them as a garnish by crushing them and sprinkling over a dish.  So that’s what I did:  halving some cherry tomatoes and tossing in some of the Essex Restaurant poblano chile/ramp salsa, adding some watermelon balls and some small mozzarella balls, and then pitting and halving some black olives and adding those, and finally, sprinkling over some crushed roasted black olives and some Aleppo pepper.  Just awesome!