Notes from Apart: Watermelon, Mozzarella, and Za'atar Salad

Watermelon, Mozzarella, and Za'atar Salad

To celebrate the transition from one season into the next, we asked our friend Jean Adamson — talented chef and the owner of some of our favorite Brooklyn spots like Vinegar Hill House and VHH Foods — to create a special end-of-summer recipe.
We've long been inspired by Jean's approach to cooking ... her food is nourishing and seasonal, simple yet unexpected in all the best ways. This salad is an example of that balance, both light and nuanced, savory and refreshing. We hope it makes its way onto your table this weekend. 

Watercolors by Abbie Zuidema, recipe by Jean Adamson

Watermelon Zaatar Mozzarella Salad

1/2 seedless watermelon
1 ball fresh mozzarella
1/4 yellow onion
1 cup oil-cured black olives
1.5 cup picked mint
1.5 cup picked basil
1/4 cup za'atar
1/4 cup sesame seeds
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
Juice of one lime 
1/4 - 1/2 cup olive oil
Maldon salt, to taste

Watermelon Zaatar Mozzarella Salad

Process and Assembly:

Cut watermelon into one-inch cubes. Set aside.
Cut mozzarella into 3/4-inch cubes. Set aside.
Cut the onion in half, then—placing the flat side down on a cutting board—slice paper thin with a very sharp knife horizontally into rainbow slices. Soak onion in ice water for 10 minutes to remove the strong flavor and drain on dry cloth until needed.
Remove pits from olives: Gently press the olive into the meaty part of your palm, then tear away the olive from the pit. Set aside. 
Pick mint and basil from stems, tear leaves in half, and reserve.
Toast sesame seeds in a small pan, moving frequently until just over golden brown. Allow to cool, then mill in mortar and pestle or pulse in spice grinder until seeds open and you can smell the toasty goodness.

On a large flat platter arrange watermelon and loosely stacked mozzarella, then sprinkle with two small pinches of Maldon salt. Drizzle vinegar and lime juice on top. Next, top with the onions and olives, then the mint and basil. Sprinkle with za'atar and sesame seeds. Lastly, drizzle olive oil over everything. 
Take your serving spoons and toss just once or twice to bring the items on the bottom into sight.