Summertime means two things in our house: the aircon and watermelon salad. Both are necessities.
With the former comes extra sniffles and disparate levels of moisturizing, from oils and powders to sunscreen and balms. I don’t remember my summer regimen (or that of my mother) being so intense when I was little. Slap on the deet, Coppertone, and Estee Lauder – lipstick and ‘Cinnabar’, and you were good. For hours. Indoors and out. And I don’t remember it being so hot! But with global warming and everything…
The latter – the watermelon salad – is one thing that provides some distraction from the summer’s insinuation of itself. July to September, we reap the rewards from our garden on a regular basis. One of the beds in the parterre is usually occupied by a meandering vine of watermelons. They’ve always felt like such an exotic fruit to me. Sweet and juicy – and only appearing in the summer. Great green striped behemoths that I couldn’t quite fit in my bike basket and risked injury to bring back from the grocery.
You can slice it, ball it, or chunk it. Get it with or without seeds. And regardless any of those, if you add the following ingredients to watermelon, you end up with a bowl of delicious summertime relief.
Here is my tried and true recipe, originally found in Nigella’s ‘Forever Summer’ book:
1 small red onion
2-4 limes, depending on juiciness
1.5 kg watermelon, ripe
250 g feta
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
1 bunch mint, fresh
100 g black olives, pitted
4 tbsp olive oil (extra virgin)
black pepper, to taste
Cut open and reem/juice the limes into a smallish bowl.
Cut the onion in half, and then into slivery half-moons, and set aside to steep in the lime juice.
Nigella says: ‘Two limes’ worth should do it, but you can find the fruits disappointingly dried up and barren when you cut them in half, in which case add more.’
Remove the rind (and seeds, if applicable), and cut up the watermelon into chunks, balls, or short strips – whichever you prefer.
Crumble the feta into pieces about the same sizes (or smaller) as the watermelon.
Melinda says: ‘These two ingredients are both the stars; one should not over-shadow the other.’
Chop the mint, and then tear off sprigs of parsley so that it is used like a salad leaf, rather than a garnish. Add both to the bowl of watermelon and feta.
Pour the onion and lime juice over everything, add the olives, and then gently toss the salad.
Nigella says: Gently, ‘so that the feta and melon don’t lose their shape.’
Then oil and pepper to taste.
I realise that this salad sounds – and possibly looks – off-putting. But… I have yet to serve this and have any left-over. I took it to a ‘ladies luncheon’ a few years ago, and after the initial shock wore off, one-by-one people started eating it. Later, I overheard one woman admonishing a friend who refused to give in and try it. She finally gave up on her friend, saying: ‘Fine; you don’t know what you’re missing. But I actually don’t care anymore. Because now that leaves more for the rest of us.’
Click here for Nigella’s original recipe – and here for a recent post on ManRepeller of ‘What to Bring’ to a cookout. (The prosciutto-wrapped melon is a particular favorite.)