RAYA tomato watermelon salad recipe

This recipe by Raya Chef Marissa Gerlach pleases guests of The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, with the sweet juicy watermelon and fresh tomatoes balanced by spicy jalapeño dressing. Her presentation is as inventive as the dish itself. Photo: Linda Mensinga

DANA POINT, Calif. September, 2012Chef Marissa Gerlach is passionate about the food she serves her guests at RAYA. She’s committed to using sustainable and seasonal ingredients for the pan-Latin menu.

Before joining The Ritz-Carlton, Chef Marissa worked in kitchens of some of the best restaurants and hotels in California including Studio at Montage Laguna Beach under Chef James Boyce, Bardessono in Yountville, The Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa Valley under Chef Christopher Kostow, and Cyrus in Healdsburg under Chef Douglas Keane.

Raya Chef Marissa Gerlach

Raya Chef Marissa Gerlach


She shares this delightful recipe with the contrasting flavors  of  spicy jalapeño and pickled shallots with the juicy texture of watermelons.

Jalapeño Dressing

(yield: 3 C)


6 jalapeños, fried, peeled, de-seeded

2 bunches watercress,  blanched

1 garlic clove

3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese - grated

2 tablespoons mirin

1/2 cup rice vinegar

3 large egg yolks

1.5 cup s oil blend, olive/corn

2 limes, juiced

Salt and black pepper, to taste


In blender, add everything but oil. Slowly drizzle oil into the blender while running until thick and creamy. Season with salt and pepper. May need a little bit more lime juice.

This should be made every 2 to 3 days to keep color and flavor.


Whipped requeson cheese

(yield: 2 cups)


1 1/4 cups requeson cheese

3/4 cup heavy cream

Salt and black pepper,to taste


Add everything together to a blender until smooth. Taste and season.


Tempura batter

(yield: 2 cups)


1/2 cup corn starch

1/2 cup cake flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

Pinch sea salt


Mix all dry ingredients together. Add bubbly water so batter is not too thin or too thick - like pancake batter. Keep cold - on ice or in cooler.

Should be made last minute.


Pickled shallots

(yield: 1 lb)


1 lb white onions, sliced

2 habaneros,thinly sliced

1 tablespoon Mexican oregano

1 cup sugar

1 cup salt

1.5 qts white vinegar


Mix all together and let sit for 12 hours. We always make them in large batches. The longer they marinate the better they are!


To serve

Organic watermelons, as needed

Heirloom tomatoes, as needed

Salt and pepper, to taste

Squash blossoms, garlic flowers, pickled shallots, lemon basil or lime basil, to garnish

1/6 avocado wedge, tempura last minute


Cube watermelons and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper

Spread jalapeño dressing on bottom of plate.

Mix together fresh squash blossoms, garlic flowers, pickled shallots, lemon basil or lime basil if you can find it. Place on top of tomatoes and watermelon.

Add quenelles of requeson as shown and place avocado.




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Linda Mensinga

Linda Mensinga was editor of Culinary Trends for 15 years, now a contributing writer. Researching restaurants and hotels, she interviews the best and brightest chefs, not necessarily the most famous, to learn their secrets and recipes. Their talent and dedication never cease to inspire her. 

Mrs. Mensinga is happily food obsessed and fortunate enough to be married to a chef. 

Contact Linda Mensinga


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