Recipe: Louie & Chan’s Watermelon Salad

The eclectic Lower East Side Asian-influenced trattoria and underground nightclub shares the secret to its popular summer salad—it's in the rinds.
(Photo: Louie & Chan)

Most people don’t think twice before trashing—or composting—their watermelon rinds. But Kevin Chun, the executive chef of the eclectic Lower East Side Asian-influenced trattoria and underground nightclub Louie & Chan, says the oft-discarded outer layer can be a main ingredient.

“The rinds provide a nice textural difference to the dish, as well as a great utilization of what otherwise would normally go in the garbage,” he says, of the restaurant’s popular Watermelon Salad. The rinds also provide a healthy boost, since they contain B and C vitamins and the compound citrulline, which has antioxidant properties.

And rinds aren’t the only slightly exotic (yet accessible) ingredient adding to the visual and flavor appeal of the salad. “Sorrel is such an underused and underrated herb, but it’s one of my favorites because its sharp flavor is very distinct and adds a nice brightness to the dish,” he says.

All of which is to say, you should probably make this for your next al fresco August dinner party. —Sarah Sarway

Louie & Chan’s Watermelon Salad

Serves 2

1 small seedless watermelon
1 dozen red grape tomatoes, halved
1 heirloom tomato cut into 1/2 inch–1 inch cubes  (yellow or any color other than red to add contrast and brightness to the dish)
1 oz sheep’s milk ricotta salata
1 bunch of sorrel (approximately 15 leaves, discard any long stems)
2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper

Pickling Liquid

4 oz red wine vinegar
4 oz sugar
1 small pinch of red chile flakes
1 pinch of fennel seeds
1 pinch of salt

1. Take the whole seedless watermelon and cut it into quarters. (Note: 1/4 of a whole watermelon will yield approximately 4 salads.)
2. Carefully remove the rind from the watermelon while leaving a centimeter or two of pink still attached to the rind quarter. Do not discard the rind.
3. Cut the watermelon into about 1/2–1 inch cubes, depending on your preference. Set aside.
4. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the dark green skin off of the watermelon rind. Once you have completely peeled the rind, slice the rind as thin as possible. A Japanese mandolin/slicer is very handy for this.
5. Combine all ingredients of the Pickling Liquid and mix until all the sugar has dissolved. In a small bowl, combine the liquid with the thinly sliced watermelon rinds. Set aside and marinate for at least 4 hours. The rinds will reach their peak flavor when marinated for 24–36 hours.
6. To arrange the salad, line the bottom of a plate with the cleaned sorrel leaves. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the grape tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, watermelon, and as much of the watermelon rinds as you like. (I usually use about 8–10 pieces for an individual salad), and extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and fresh cracked pepper.
7. Gently arrange the tomatoes, watermelon, and watermelon rinds on top of the bed of sorrel. Crumble the sheep’s milk ricotta over the top. Serve immediately.

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