You know what watermelon tastes like. Cool and refreshing, satisfyingly juicy and sweet. It’s all those things and more when combined with the salty, hot and sour flavors in Watermelon Salad. An amazing transformation takes place. Each bite a surprising revelation. The essence of the watermelon shines through, enhanced by these unexpected flavors and textures.
One bite may be sweet with watermelon. The next may be salty with feta and a bit of Kalamata olive. Another bite surprises with the mild heat of a Serrano pepper. Then you notice arugula’s crisp and peppery assertiveness. The drizzle of fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil brings the flavors together for a most refreshing, colorful and inviting Watermelon Salad.
Choosing a sweet, ripe watermelon
My husband, Paul, has the knack. He has a sixth sense and keen ear when it comes to selecting watermelons. First, his eyes sweep over the bin of melons. He picks one out and gives it a thump with his knuckles. He can tell by the sound if this is “the one.” He’s right almost every time. So I leave the selection process to him. Though I do thump a few melons myself hoping to gain greater discernment.
According to Paul and other experts, look for these five tell-tale signs besides thumping for selecting a ripe and sweet-tasting watermelon:
- Dull rather than shiny skin.
- Uniformity of shape—no odd bumps or indentations.
- Heavy for its size.
- A creamy yellow patch where the watermelon rested on the ground. The longer it was left on the vine, the deeper yellow the patch.
- Sugar beads—tiny black beads of sugar on the melon.
Inspired by and adapted from a recipe in Saveur Magazine.
Dress the salad just before serving, so the arugula remains crisp.
For a show stopping presentation, display Watermelon Salad layered on a large platter.
Total time: 45 minutes
3- pound slice of seedless watermelon
1/3 cup thinly sliced scallion (2-3 scallions)
1 Serrano pepper, seeded and minced
12 Kalamata olives, pitted and quartered
3 ounces feta cheese, diced or crumbled, about ½ cup
4 cups arugula, large stems removed (or substitute watercress when arugula’s not available)
¾ cup fresh mint chiffonade
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
3 twists freshly ground pepper
Coarse Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Remove the rind from the slice of watermelon.
- Cut the flesh into ¾-1-inch cubes. You should have 7 ½-8 cups of cubed watermelon.
- Toss the watermelon, thinly sliced scallion, minced Serrano pepper and quartered olives together in a medium-size bowl. Gently toss in 2/3 of the feta cheese. Refrigerate this mixture while you prepare the greens and dressing.
- Tear the arugula into 1-inch pieces, removing any tough stems.
- Toss the arugula, mint and parsley together in a medium bowl.
- Using a fork, stir together the fresh lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Just before serving Watermelon Salad, whisk the dressing together again. Toss the greens with 2 tablespoons of the dressing. Make a bed of the greens at the bottom of your platter.
- Place the watermelon mixture on top of the greens. Sprinkle the rest of the feta cheese on top of the watermelon. Add any juices in the bowl to the remaining dressing. Spoon the dressing over the watermelon.
- Sprinkle the salad with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.