Tuesday, September 06, 2011

WATERMELON SALAD WITH FETA, MINT, AND LIME


Even though I firmly believe summer isn’t summer without watermelon, my appetite for it is limited. I love its cool, crisp, and well, watery properties, but its sweetness can be cloying. I’d had savory treatments of watermelon before—a restaurant near my office serves a complimentary appetizer of watermelon with balsamic vinegar, feta, and basil—but they’d never really spoken to me. This one, however, looked so pretty, and I am fully aware what wonderful things mint and lime can do for fruit, and my obsession with feta only grows, so I gave it a try and HOLY COW, PEOPLE.

Make this right away. Seriously. It does crazy things to your taste buds, transforming the relatively uncomplicated flavor of the watermelon into a salty-sweet-savory kaleidoscope. You can even leave off the cheese if that seems just too weird to you—it does add a wonderful saltiness, and the contrast of its creaminess with the liquidity of the watermelon is interesting, but I’m convinced that it’s really the lime, mint, and pinch of salt that I love the most here. The lime adds that tang I’m always missing from watermelon, the mint makes the watermelon even more refreshing than you ever dreamed possible, and the salt cuts the sweetness so much that it really brings out the melon flavor in the watermelon, something you can’t always detect when it’s accompanied by all that sugar. This is all theoretical, though, because I haven’t tried it without the feta yet; I’m addicted to it just the way it is. It’s become my default way of preparing watermelon, and I’m going to have trouble going back to the plain stuff after this.

I first made this when A and I were going to the Hollywood Bowl, and it was very tasty as a picnic food—I just assembled it a few hours ahead of time, leaving the feta, mint, lime, and salt on the very top of the container of watermelon until it was time to eat. I’ve also taken it to work for lunch that way, putting it together the night before. But over time, the salt draws so much juice out of the watermelon and the feta starts to break down in the acid, leaving you with a milky-watery mess, so it’s really best to eat this fresh, with all the ingredients still chilled from the fridge. Luckily, it’s so easy to make that I can throw together a single serving at the drop of a hat. Measurements aren’t really necessary here (just don’t drown the watermelon in the toppings; it should still be the main feature), but if I had to guess I’d say I use the juice from a quarter of a lime, a tablespoon of chopped mint, a tablespoon of feta, and a single pinch of fleur de sal per every cereal-bowl-sized serving of watermelon.

Watermelon, cubed
Feta cheese, crumbled
Fresh mint leaves, cut in ribbons
Freshly squeezed lime juice
Coarse finishing salt, such as fleur de sal

1. Place your watermelon on a plate or in a bowl.

2. Sprinkle watermelon with feta cheese, mint ribbons, lime juice, and a pinch of salt.

Serves: As many or few as you like
Time: 5 minutes
Leftover potential: Will be OK for a few hours in the refrigerator (leave the toppings on top of the watermelon and don’t stir to combine until you’re ready to eat), but it’s best freshly made.

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