Active Time
2 HR
Total Time
10 HR
Serves : 5

At Vicia in St. Louis, Best New Chef Michael Gallina closes the loop in his cooking. This elegant amuse-bouche showcases Gallina’s zero-waste approach: Tomato skins are dried to become an umami-rich flavored salt; the tomato seeds and pulp, plus the brine of pickled green tomatoes, become the base of the Tomato Water Gazpacho.

How to Make It

Step 1    Make the tomato sofrito

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high. Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl.

Step 2    

Using a paring knife, core beefsteak tomatoes. Score an “X” on bottom of each tomato. Carefully drop into boiling water, and cook until skins begin to pull away, about 2 minutes. Remove tomatoes with a slotted spoon, and immediately drop into ice bath to stop the cooking process.

Step 3    

Drain tomatoes, and peel off skins. Reserve tomato skins for Tomato-Skin Salt.

Step 4    

Quarter peeled tomatoes; scoop out seeds and liquid, reserving 1 cup seeds and liquid for Tomato Water Gazpacho (recipe follows). Discard remaining seeds and liquid. Set tomato quarters aside.

Step 5    

Heat oil in a wide, heavy- bottomed pot over medium until shimmering. Add onion, garlic, red pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 8 minutes. (Do not let onion and garlic brown.)

Step 6    

Add tomato quarters and remaining 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Reduce heat to low, and cook until all moisture has cooked away and tomatoes begin to fry, about 20 minutes.

Step 7    

Remove from heat, and let cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor, and process until smooth. Season to taste with sea salt, and transfer to an airtight container. Mixture may be stored in refrigerator up to 5 days.

Step 8    Make the pickled green tomatoes

Stir together vinegar, 1 cup water, kosher salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan until combined. Cook over medium until salt and sugar dissolve. (Do not bring to a boil.)

Step 9    

Place green tomato slices in a sealable container. Pour warm brine over tomatoes, and let cool, uncovered. Pickled tomatoes may be used after 30 minutes or covered and stored in refrigerator up to 5 days.

Step 10    Make the tomato-skin salt

Preheat oven to lowest possible temperature. Arrange reserved tomato skins from tomato sofrito on paper towels, and blot dry. Spread tomato skins in an even layer on a parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven until dry and brittle, 8 hours or overnight.

Step 11    

Transfer dried skins and sea salt to a food processor, and pulse until combined. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Step 12    Assemble the tomato and watermelon bites

Cut rind from watermelon; discard rind. Cut watermelon into 15 (3- x 1 1/2- x 3/4-inch) planks; reserve 2 cups scraps for Tomato Water Gazpacho. Set planks aside.

Step 13    

Combine 1 cup tomato sofrito and goat cheese in a food processor. Pulse until smooth; season to taste with sea salt. Transfer mixture to a ziplock plastic freezer bag; snip 1 corner of bag to make a small hole.

Step 14    

Pipe about 2 teaspoons sofrito-cheese mixture over each watermelon plank, spreading evenly into a thick layer. Top each with 2 pickled green tomato slices, and season with tomato-skin salt. Reserve 1/2 cup liquid from pickled green tomatoes for Tomato Water Gazpacho. Sprinkle watermelon planks evenly with sliced herbs.

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