Watermelon Salad

Who knew you could turn watermelon into a savory dish?  I have to admit I was pretty skeptical of this recipe.  It seemed like an odd combination of flavors.  It also seemed odd that Paula Deen was offering me a recipe with zero butter in it.  Still, I forged ahead.  Occasionally I buy a watermelon only to get it home and wonder why in the world I did that.  Recently I bought half a small watermelon and hadn’t even bothered to unwrap it.  I was invited to dinner with friends last night and saw an opportunity to unload this watermelon.  The dinner menu was already set so I needed something that would fit in.  This salad fit the bill.

I know it seems kind of weird to put vinegar on watermelon and even more weird to throw in a bunch of feta, but trust me.  It’s really good.  The onions provide a nice crunch and the tangy feta is a perfect counterpoint to the sweet watermelon.  The salt pulls a lot of juice out of the watermelon so mix it right before you’re ready to serve it.  It gets kind of soupy as it sits.  That doesn’t hurt the flavor at all, but it looks nicer when it’s first mixed.  That said, it actually holds up pretty well over time.  I’m having some for breakfast this morning and it tastes great.  (I know, my breakfast choices are often questionable).

A couple of notes about putting this together.  Use only fresh spearmint.  If you’re not growing this at home you should be.  It grows very well in a pot so you don’t need a garden for it.  If you’re not interested in growing your own get it at the farmer’s market.  The mint you buy in those little boxes at the grocery store hardly counts as fresh.  It’s already wilty and turning gray most of the time.  If you’re close by come to my house and I’ll give you a clipping.  Many people in the neighborhood get their mint from my herb garden.  This mint is a legacy plant from my mom’s house and it’s a particularly sweet and fragrant spearmint.

Also, be sure that you add the oil to the vinegarette a few drops at a time as you whisk.  It’s really important that this dressing emulsify.  That means it doesn’t separate as it sits.  You don’t want to have any bites of watermelon that are just covered in oil and others soaked in vinegar.  This is relatively easy to do by hand with a whisk, it just takes time.  If you prefer put the vinegar and spice mix in a blender and then add the oil slowly through the vent in the top.

Good? Yes! And I was prepared to think it was disgusting.
Easy? Yep. Just a few ingredients.
Good for company? Yes. A perfect picnic dish. Set aside some plain watermelon for the kids though.
Special shopping? Fresh mint, if you don’t keep it in the house.

Watermelon Salad with Mint Leaves


1 (5-pound) watermelon
1 Vidalia or other sweet onion
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
6 whole mint sprigs


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 rings.

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. Add in the chopped mint, 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. Garnish with mint sprigs.


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