My Mom would buy one of the gigantic melons at the grocery store and bring it home. Then my Dad would get a cooler out of the garage and cover the melon with ice for 24 hours to chill it to perfection. I am sure this 24 hour waiting period had a lot to do with the excitement - anticipating anything for 24 hours as a child can seem like a lifetime. When the wait was over my Mom would lay out newspaper on the table to catch the juice and then my Dad would cut the melon into slices for everyone. The shape of the slices was a very key factor. He didn't slice them into triangular shapes with the small rind to melon ratio you would expect at a party or a festival. Our portions were oblong so they could sit upright on the table as you ate. Everyone would have a butter knife that was used to cute bite size pieces of the melon as you worked your way down to the white flesh before the rind.
The most important part is that we didn't eat the melon on its own. Every freshly exposed layer of melon got a generous sprinkling of salt before you begin to chop it up into cubes. I don't know if other people around the world eat salt on the their watermelon. I have never seen it done this way in a movie and have never witnessed others eat it like that in person. But our watermelon was always paired with salt.
The combination of salty and sweet has never been done so well. The sweet juicy flesh of the watermelon was the perfect compliment to the common table seasoning. I knew right away I would love this recipe because I knew that the salty flavor of the feta would work wonderfully with the sweet fruit and would no doubt bring me back to those childhood summers and that special treat.
Watermelon and Feta Salad
Adapted from Paula Deen
- 1 (5-pound) watermelon
- 1 red onion
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled or cubed
Cut the flesh from the melon and cut into bite size pieces, removing and discarding the seeds, and set aside. Peel and slice the onion into paper thin rings and then chop the rings into 1 inch pieces.
In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, salt, pepper, and whisk until salt is dissolved. Slowly whisk in the olive oil, a few drops at a time. Taste, and adjust seasonings.
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.
To serve, divide salad among individual plates and garnish a sprinkle of dried parsley.