Genève’s Kitchen

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What…er…Melon?

June 18th, 2006 · 5 Comments

watermelon salad.jpgAlthough it isn’t officially summer according to the calendar, the weather has gotten significantly warmer and I’m seeing all the signs at my grocery store and local market that summer is in fact here. Today I bought a big round emerald striped watermelon for a mere $3.98. They were in a large bin out there for the taking. So I took one, of course.
I was looking forward to enjoying the chin-dripping juicy goodness that I love about watermelons and then remembered a recipe my Mom had sent to me at the end of last summer that she’d come across in the Boston Globe. It was a recipe by Paula Deen for a savory watermelon and mint salad. Now I’ve seen Paula Deen on TV and I never thought I’d ever cook one of her recipes because each seems to contain a can of condensed milk, at least one stick of butter, and well, you get the idea. But this recipe sounded fresh, light, and summery so I was happy to add this newspaper clipping to my collection of recipes. Until now though I haven’t had any watermelon in my possession to try out this simple salad. Since it fits with my low maintenance and simple food philosophy I was anxious to see if the flavors would work together successfully. Also, I loved the idea of using watermelon in a savory dish – how refreshingly different.

So how did the salad turn out? Well for starters since it was just Kareem and myself who were going to be enjoying this salad it didn’t make sense to prepare the recipe to exact specifications. The recipe calls for an entire watermelon so while I imagine this would be a great thing to bring to a summer potluck or BBQ – it’s not ideal as a starter for two. Also, I wanted to preserve some watermelon for snacking (obviously).

I used the same ingredients that Paula outlines in her recipe and I prepared a smaller portion of the dressing. I assembled individual salads and drizzled with the dressing. I switched out the mint for basil since the basil that I have growing on my balcony was looking a bit fresher than the mint. I found the flavors worked very well together and this is a perfect light starter for any summer menu.

Here’s the recipe by Paula Deen taken from the Boston Globe (I add my version below):

Watermelon Salad with Mint Leaves

1 watermelon (I’d recommend getting the seedless kind)
1 Vidalia or other sweet onion (I used red onion)
1/4 C red wine vinegar
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint and some whole leaves for garnish
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper

1) Cut watermelon into bite sized pieces – discard seeds (or go with a seedless watermelon) and set aside. Peel and slice the onion into rings.

2) In a small bowl combine the vinegar, salt, pepper – whisking until the salt is dissolved. Quantities of salt weren’t provided in the recipe – I used less than a 1/4 teaspoon – just a pinch but just taste and season it to your liking. Slowly whisk in the olive oil then add the chopped mint.

3) In a large bowl combine the melon, onion, and feta. Pour the dressing over the melon mixture and toss gently until everything is coated and evenly mixed. Garnish the salad with mint sprigs.

Yield: 6 servings

My version:

Watermelon – factor 2 slices of watermelon per person, slice them 1/2 inch thick and cut them into either squares or triangles for the presentation – the length of each side should be approximately 3-4 inches (this is how I made mine but of course you can take liberties here as to how you want to prepare yours)

A few thin slices of red onion
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt/Pepper to taste (just a pinch of each will do)
Fresh basil leaves or mint – either one will work really well, since my basil was looking a lot more vibrant I went with basil and it offered a refreshing note to the sweet watermelon and zingy dressing
1/8 – 1/4 cup crumbled feta – as you can see in the photo I just added some crumbled feta in between the layers of watermelon – I’m not sure exactly what precise amount I used so just use your judgement

1) Mix the dressing in a small bowl – whisking together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Set aside.

2) Prepare the watermelon slices, the red onion slices, crumbled feta.

3) Assemble the salad by first laying out a slice of watermelon on the plate, add crumbled feta on top, arrange a few thin pieces of the red onion, and then a basil leaf. Follow by adding the other slice of watermelon on top of that and repeat the same arrangement: crumbled feta, a few slices of red onion and then a basil leaf. Taking a spoon drizzle some of the dressing over and around the watermelon tower – I cracked some black pepper to finish as it was a nice stark contrast to see the little flecks of black against the soft pink hues of the watermelon salad. As far as the dressing is concerned I found that less is more so just add a spoonful or two as you drizzle each plate.

The amount of dressing I made would have been enough for 4 salads. This dressing is light and simple and I was thinking it would also work lovely in the tuna and cannellini bean salad I wrote about in my last post.

Enjoy!

Tags: Appetizers · Entertaining · Salads

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