Vinings' Sunniest Salad

South City Kitchen's Georgia Tomato and Watermelon Salad

Article by Executive Chef Dontrell Ham

Photography by South City Kitchen, Vinings

Originally published in Smyrna Vinings Lifestyle

Dontrell Ham is a true Southerner at heart. Inspired by his grandmother’s home cooking and with an early admiration for chefs Julia Child & Jacques Pépin, Ham’s childhood love of food ultimately prepared him for the culinary road ahead. After graduating from Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, Ham honed his culinary skills at acclaimed hotels, resorts and restaurants before joining the Fifth Group Restaurants family in 2018. Armed with an impressive 18 years of industry experience, Ham most recently served as sous chef for South City Kitchen Buckhead before his promotion to executive chef of the Vinings location in 2021.

Dontrell's recipe:

Start with a small seedless watermelon and a pint of heirloom grape tomatoes. Cut tomatoes in halves. Cut rind off watermelon, saving half for pickling. Cut watermelon into 1/2 inch cubes and set aside. Take off dark green layer of rind and julienne 2 cups. 

Garnish: 1 oz. basil, torn, save stems for pickling and half a cup of pistachios crushed for garnish.

Pickling: Add to sauce pot: 2 1/2 cups vinegar, 1 cup water, 1 tbsp salt, 1 cup sugar 1 bay leaf, 1 tsp each: mustard seeds, coriander, celery seeds, and basil stems. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer for 5 minutes. Strain and pour over watermelon rind. Cover with a tight lid and let sit 20 minutes.

Vinaigrette: Add one avocado, half a jalapeno, 1/4 oz mint leaves, 1 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar, ½ oz. honey, 3/4 oz. shallot (small diced), and 1 lime, zest only to blender and mix for 2 minutes. Slowly add 1 cup of blended oil to incorporate. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve: Mix 1 cup of watermelon, 4 oz tomatoes, 1 oz vinaigrette and place in a bowl. Top with pickled watermelon, basil , pistachios, and finish with a pinch pink Himalayan salt

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