Photo: Cristina Ferrare
I remember all too well the hot, humid summers back east—where you felt like you could actually melt. Around 4:00 in the afternoon, you'd need a refreshing pick-me-up because the heat was so oppressive and you felt totally lethargic. My dad used to keep a cooler filled with ice on the back porch and my mom would cut up juicy slices of watermelon that we could enjoy any time of the day. My sister, brother and friends would reach into the cooler to take slices of watermelon and go sit under a shady tree. We would get all sticky from the juice running down our arms and onto our legs as we bit into this cold refreshing fruit. Of course there would be a watermelon seed spitting contest to see how far we could spit them. I would never participate because I actually liked to chew on the seeds—until my sister told me I would grow a watermelon in my stomach if I kept that up. (Who hasn’t heard that one?)
I would see some grown-ups sprinkling salt on their melons, and I was so upset by that, though I'm not sure why. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered how a bit of saltiness on watermelon actually enhances the flavor.
On a trip to Greece, sitting in a seaside cafe, I ordered watermelon. It came with feta cheese scattered over the top. The combination of the cool melon and the salty cheese was, surprisingly, mouth-wateringly delicious. It has now become my very favorite salad during the summer months and I make one almost everyday.
I still don’t sprinkle salt on my melon. I try to limit my sodium. I do make my version of the watermelon served Greek-style, and whenever I serve it to my family and friends they absolutely love it! I’ve added a few extra touches that I think you will enjoy. You will have leftover melon from this recipe; you can use it to make a cool, refreshing drink.
Watermelon is very low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, which make it a perfect snack. They're also a great source of potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C.
An important note about watermelon: make sure to slice the melon on a super -clean cutting board. Melons will pick up the flavor of anything that you may have chopped before, especially garlic. And definitely do not place cut melon on a board where you cut chicken or beef because of salmonella. I keep separate cutting boards for veggies, meats, chicken, fish and fruits.
Make the balsamic syrup first: pour the whole bottle into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower heat to medium-high and continue to boil until the vinegar starts to thicken and forms a syrup-like consistency, about 14 to 20 minutes. Be careful not to thicken it too much or it will end up a thick, black goop. The best way to check is to use a wooden spoon, if the syrup coats the back of the spoon it’s ready to remove from the heat. Let it cool to room temperature before you store it in the refrigerator. I use a needle nose plastic bottle to store my syrup after it has cooled. It will last up to 2 months in the refrigerator.
Slice the watermelon into 2-inch round slices. Take your best 4 round slices and cut from the middle of each one a 3-inch by 3-inch rectangle. Wrap all 4 pieces in plastic wrap and cool in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Place one square of watermelon on each serving plate and slice it into 1-inch pieces. You should have 9 squares per serving.
Add three pieces of the feta cheese down the middle of each serving. Add 4 to 5 slices of the red onion over each serving. Drizzle 1 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil over each serving.
Add 5 to 6 fresh mint leaves over top of each serving. Scatter micro greens over top and drizzle balsamic syrup over. Serve immediately.
Published on June 30, 2011