When we think of the word “bruschetta”, we often think of an Italian version of a pico de gallo, made with fresh tomatoes, tons of garlic, and fresh basil. What most people don’t know is that the word “bruschetta” actually refers to the charred bread that’s underneath all of the toppings. So, in keeping with the inventive traditions of bruschetta, I have kept the charred bread, but I’ve kicked the tomatoes out. Instead, I’m shaking things up a bit, and using watermelon instead.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Watermelon – It goes without saying that watermelon is the star of the show. These recipes each use about ⅛ of a large watermelon, but they can easily be doubled, tripled, or halved depending on how much watermelon you’ve got. In terms of choosing the best watermelon, you’re on your own with that. I’m not good at it either. Get the best one you can find, but even a mediocre watermelon will work great in all of these recipes.
- Garlic – This being an Italian-inspired recipe, it’s important to have garlic. Not a fan, use none, or less. But just know that much of the pizzaz in this dish comes from fresh garlic. Pre-chopped would be fine, but fresh is best.
- FRESH basil leaves – With a bruschetta, there is no substitution for fresh basil. Don’t use dry. Try your best to find a large clamshell of basil, or do like I did, and buy a small plant to keep in your windowsill.
- “Good” olive oil – I’m laughing as I type this because I always thought it was funny how Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, is always telling people to, “Use good olive oil… “, and then here I am telling y’all to “Use good olive oil… “. But really, use good olive oil. You will definitely taste it in this bruschetta topping, so you want to make sure you use the best that you can.
- Balsamic vinegar – With watermelon, there is no better vinegar than balsamic. The flavors work so well together, and the balsamic just adds a richness to the watermelon. I wouldn’t recommend using any other vinegar in this dish, but if you ONLY had red wine vinegar on hand, you could probably get away with using that.
- Ciabatta bread – You want a good crusty bread that can stand up to the saucy topping. Pretty much any bread that you have to slice yourself will work. I like a ciabatta because it’s got the perfect texture and crumb for bruschetta, and no matter where I find it, it always seems to be vegan.
Wait. What? Watermelon?!
Admittedly, I’m not an expert on picking out watermelons. I look for the yellow patch, and I thump them to listen for something, and I now even look for the lines that supposedly tell you that it’s got a lot of sugar in it. Occasionally, my detective work pays off, and I’m rewarded with a perfectly sweet and ripe watermelon. Other times, even if a melon seems to check all of the ripeness boxes, it’s “just OK”.
But like pizza, Thai food, and sex, a “just OK” waterelon is still worth having.
I don’t buy watermelons as often as I would like to, mostly because I feel like they require a lot of work to get into. And once you do get into them, there seems to be a ton of byproduct that I never know what to do with. Not to mention the storage aspect of trying to refrigerate 15 to 20 pound of fruit.
So, I started to think of other ways that I could use watermelon, both to help me eliminate some of the waste, and to give me some other ways to enjoy a watermelon that might not be the ripest or sweetest one of the bunch.
It came to me that I had seen watermelon used in a recipe that normally called for tomates, so I decided to see just how far I could take it.
No shade at tomatoes, but tomatoes are another one of those fruits that are never really as good as you would like them to be, and most of the time when you find them in our season-less supermarkets, they are under-ripe and bland.
I learned a lot from my initial tests. First of all, “just ok” watermelons are superior to “meh” tomatoes. A watermelon that’s not as sweet as it could be is still more flavorful than a tomato with the same challenges.
Secondly, the yield you get from a single watermelon, is exponentially more than what you get from an entire bushel of tomatoes. I was taken aback by just how much fruit there actually is in a watermelon. I paid close to $6 at Sprouts for an organic melon, and I just keep thinking how much it would have cost for me to get the same amount of usable fruit from organic tomatoes.
In terms of the waste or byproduct, the watermelon does have an edible rind, between the skin and the flesh, that is actually quite good when handled properly. I have a few recipes I’m working on for that, so stay tuned.
The four recipes that I tested out using watermelon in place of tomatoes all came out incredible:
The flavor and texture of the watermelon works so perfectly in all of these dishes that, if you didn’t know any better, you would think they had been made to use watermelon all along.
Check out this video to see just how easily these dishes can be made, and then scroll down for the down for the full printable recipe for my Watermelon Bruschetta.
The perfect topping for grille bread, this take on a traditional bruschetta subs in watermelon for tomatoes.
- 2 cups (12-13 ounces) ripe watermelon, cut into ¼ inch cubes
- 1 cloves garlic, minced
- 10 large basil leaves, julienned
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- ½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- ciabatta bread or bread of choice
- olive oil
- Combine all ingredients into a bowl, and stir to combine. Taste for salt. Allow to rest about 1 hour until ready to serve.
- Thinly slice your bread of choice, and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Heat up a large skillet or grill pan, and toast your bread on both sides. Serve alongside the Watermelon Bruschetta.