Friday, July 10, 2009

Salty Sweet Satisfaction

One childhood memory that I reflect on fondly is that of sharing the summer treat of watermelon with my family. I don't know how frequently this happened; whether it was once a week, once a month or only once every other summer. In my mind it was a very exciting occasion so I can only deduct that we didn't do it too often or it would have lost its charm.

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.


teresa said...

I'm loving the watermelon in salad combo! This looks so good!

Kelli said...

We always had salt with our watermelon back home in southern Oklahoma :) Perfect sweet-salty combo.

Gabriela (Gabi With An Eye) said...

In Mexico its common to sprinkle salt on watermelon and other fruits like mango, orange, papaya, and jicama. Often we sprinkle a little cayenne too. On the other end of the spectrum, granulated sugar can be sprinkled on a sliced tomato for a particularly sweet and savory treat. Your watermelon salad looks down right mouth watering - another recipe we'll have to try. TFS.

Laura said...

I've got a half of a melon I need to use. Also, a huge block of feta. I think this is on our lunch menu today!

Laura said...

Also, I always have salted cantaloupe. Never dawned on me that it could be a regional thing!

Victor Yu said...

At first glance, I thought it was this classic tomato and feta salad, then when I saw the first ingredient was watermelon, I said "wow, I didn't expected that". Thanks for sharing.

Kerstin said...

What a fun family tradition! Yum, feta and watermelon are so good together! I love that you sprinkled it with salt, I'll have to try that.

The Mulligan Family said...

What an interesting combination. I am definitely going to give it a try. Sounds delicious and refreshing.

I've never salted watermelon, but have always sprinkled a bit on my cantelope. Seems to make it sweeter! Must do the same with the watermelon!

Megan said...

I just bought everythisg a few days ago to make this very salad. But I throw in a bit of tomato and cilantro.!

Micah said...

made this for my friends and they loved it. and her filipino parents loved it as well.