Summer has officially arrived, and watermelon season is here. Watermelon is a fantastic food on a summer day—juicy and sweet yet loaded with hydration, nutrients, and fiber. This dish makes a refreshing and delicious salad.
Summer 2019 in Greece, I tried a variation of this salad for the first time, and now I look forward to preparing it when watermelons are at their peak.
The feta cheese and spicy chili are optional ingredients that add a whole extra dimension of flavor. Whether to add some chili heat to this dish is up to you. Some people love this salad with added heat, others not at all; if unsure, then try a little on the side to clarify which you prefer.
I prefer English cucumbers in this dish as they have less seeds and a thinner skin, although any cucumber will do.
Chef’s Note—How to Pick a Great Watermelon: Picking a sweet and juicy watermelon with just the right crunch is a bit of a challenge. Here are seven tips to make finding a great watermelon more successful:
- First check to see that the skin is free of scratches, bruises, and dents, which are signs that it may have been damaged or punctured.
- It should be symmetrical without lumps or bumps. Irregularly shaped watermelons likely had inadequate sunshine and/or water.
- The watermelon should have a dark green, dull color. A shinny surface color suggests that it is not ripe.
- It should also have a field spot. This will be a yellow splotch on the underside of a watermelon where it lied on the ground. Ideally, the spot should be a creamy yellow color. The darker the yellow, the sweeter the melon.
- It should not have a stem. When watermelons become ripe they drop the stem. A watermelon with the stem attached may have been picked before it was ripe.
- Gently knock on the watermelon like knocking gently on a door. A ripe watermelon should have a full, deep, and hollow sound. An under-ripe melon will make a duller one. Feel the surface when you knock on it as well. It should be firm to the touch—a soft watermelon may be mushy on the inside.
- Lastly, pick it up and feel its weight. It should feel heavy for its size because it is full of water, meaning that it is ripe and juicy.
Serves: Six (Makes 7-8 cups)
Prep Time: 15-20 Minutes
5 cups watermelon, peeled, cubed (or use a melon baller to make melon balls)
1 medium to small English cucumber, cubed
1 small red onion red onion, cut into thin slices
20 fresh mint leaves, chopped
12 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 Jalapeño pepper, seeds and stem removed, minced (optional)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon honey
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup cubed feta cheese (sliced into 1/2-inch cubes)
Combine watermelon, cucumber, red onion, mint, and basil in a salad bowl.
Whisk dressing and mix with the salad.
Garnish with feta cheese.
If you are taking this dish to a party (great for a picnic). Keep it refrigerated or on ice and add the dressing and feta cheese just prior to serving.
Steven Masley, MD
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