Friday, August 15, 2014

Watermelon, Feta and Arugula Salad

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I was driving down Dixwell Avenue towards New Haven a week or two ago.  It's the section of town that has layers and layers of texture, as my artist friend Sue says.  On a warm summer afternoon this is where people tend to mingle about.  You might find an older gentleman selling some barbecue right next to a younger man hawking knock-off sneakers and pocketbooks. My favorite vendor is the man with a U-Haul truck loaded with enormous watermelons.  For years I've wondered about those melons.  

My dad used to farm watermelons in Texas back in the 1940's.  He would tell stories about melons so abundant, so sweet and so big that they would split them open in the field, eat just the heart, and toss the rest away.  Maybe I was feeling nostalgic for my dad, but as I sat waiting at a red light something compelled me to yell out to the watermelon man, "Hey - are your melons any good?" Before the traffic light had turned green I had forked out $12 and had a gigantic melon (so big I could barely lift it) in my back seat.  I'm certain my dad would have approved of this beauty, after he had recovered from the sticker shock.

Dale Cutler Moncur
Watermelon, Feta and Arugula Salad
barely adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen by Sara Forte

Serves 4

1 small watermelon
1/2 cup feta cheese
1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
4 cups baby arugula
handful fresh basil, coarsely chopped
1/4 red onion, very thinly sliced

Cut the watermelon widthwise into 1/2-inch slabs.  Using a round biscuit or cookie cutter (about 2 1/2 inches in diameter), punch out circles from the flesh of the watermelon. Depending on the size of the watermelon, you should be able to get 3 or 4 circles from each cross section. Save the excess melon for another use.

In a small bowl, make the dressing by mashing the feta cheese with the white balsamic vinegar, olive oil and a few grinds of black pepper.

In a small bowl, toss the arugula, basil, and red onion with a few tablespoons of the feta dressing to coat.  Put some of the dressed greens on a plate and top with a watermelon round.  Drizzle a bit of dressing on the watermelon and continue stacking with alternating layers of greens, watermelon and dressing.  Finish each serving with greens on top and serve immediately. 

Notes on the recipe:  This recipe demands white balsamic vinegar, not the more assertive dark variety. If you live near a Trader Joe's, their authentic imported Greek feta elevates this recipe to another level. Their white balsamic is also my favorite. 

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