Reinventing a summer picnic staple
Watermelon, feta, cucumber and mint salad
Even the bravest of cooks may be skeptical of these uncanny uses for watermelon, but a little kitchen courage will be rewarded with bold and unexpected flavor. Once you start looking at watermelon in a new way, you’ll find yourself experimenting with your own flavor combinations in no time!
Watermelon and Feta Salad
Combine 3 cups of watermelon (cut into 1” cubes) with 1 cup of feta cheese (crumbled or cut into 1” cubes) and ½ cup cucumber (cut into ½” cubes). Garnish with 1T chopped fresh mint and ½T snipped fresh chives. Drizzle with olive oil and season lightly with kosher salt. Serve with grilled or poached chicken.
Watermelon and Jicama Salad
Combine 3 cups of watermelon (cut into 2” batons), 1 cup of jicama (cut into 2” batons). Mix in 1 jalapeno pepper (seeded and minced), ¼ cup lime juice, 2T olive oil, 1T honey, and ¼ cup chopped cilantro. Sprinkle with crumbled queso fresco, salt and pepper if desired. Serve alongside grilled flank steak.
Watermelon and Tomato Salad
Combine 2 cups of watermelon (cut into 1” cubes) with 2 cups of assorted heirloom tomatoes (seeded and cut into 1” cubes). Gently mix in ½ cup diced yellow pepper, ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley, 2T chopped fresh basil, and 1T capers. Splash with 1-2 T balsamic vinegar and olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Serve with crusty grilled bread and fresh ricotta cheese.
Watermelon and Olive
Combine 3 C watermelon (cut into 1” cubes) with ½ cup halved Greek green olives, and 1/3 C crumbled gorgonzola cheese. Serve watermelon mixture over arugula or watercress and garnish with toasted slivered almonds. Dress lightly with red wine vinaigrette and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve as a side salad with seared salmon.
Updated: August 13, 2012 6:36AM
Visiting my Grandma Virginia’s house during prime picnic season went hand-in-hand with wiping sticky watermelon juice from my forearms and spitting black seeds into the backyard. Unlike most folks who outgrow their childhood obsession with watermelon, my grandmother considered that pink fruit her favorite food and it was a summertime staple at her house.
Serving thick slices of heavily seeded watermelon to my young children always reminded me of her. When my son was nearly four he accidentally swallowed a watermelon seed and I naturally told him a watermelon would grow in is stomach. My grandma’s familiar joke broke badly and he became inconsolably hysterical in a split second. It took us a good hour to calm him down and for nearly two weeks following the incident he would rub his belly and ask me if I was sure there wasn’t a melon growing in there.
Ever since inadvertently traumatizing the biggest watermelon lover in our family, we’ve had a hard time finishing an entire giant melon. But I didn’t want to let that stop us from enjoying Virginia’s favorite food. As a result, I began experimenting with creative uses for leftover watermelon.
Watermelon has a happy and welcome place in any fruit salad, but the sweet, crisp and colorful fruit stands up to savory flavors with unexpected ease. A good number of folks know seasoning watermelon with salt enhances its natural flavor and adding salty cheeses to dishes including watermelon has a similar effect.
Keep with tradition and serve sliced watermelon at your next cookout, but don’t be afraid to rethink this familiar barbecue side dish and embrace the savory side of a sweet summertime treat.
Melissa Elsmo is an Oak Park mom, wife and chef/foodie. She speaks regularly about reclaiming the family dinner hour with nutritious meals. Check out her food blog at www.outofmelskitchen.blogspot.com.