For a fast and easy warm-weather salad on the Fourth of July, it doesn’t get better than Watermelon Feta.
According to Google Trends, searches for watermelon and feta cheese salads have spiked every July for more than a decade. To taste it is to know why. The distinct and refreshing combo is something I could eat several times a week during watermelon season.
I think it’s safe to call it a new classic.
This salad has so few ingredients, you want each to be the best it can be.
The sweeter the watermelon, the more amazing the salad. You can use large, baby, red or yellow watermelons, whatever is available. Seedless watermelons are easy to find these days, and they make the eating experience so much easier.
If you can chill the watermelon before cutting it, your salad will be good to go. If you start with a room-temperature melon, I recommend chilling the salad before serving.
And if you prefer to make balls with a melon baller instead of dicing the melon, go for it.
Be sure to save any extra for snacking or a watermelon smoothie –- no watermelon waste allowed!
Get the best feta you can find, preferably fresh and not packaged. You can choose from French feta, Greek feta, Bulgarian feta, Lebanese feta … see what your cheese counter has on offer.
Dice or crumble the feta — if you choose crumbling, don’t crumble it too finely. The pleasure of this salad is in the bites of different flavors, so you don’t want them to blend together too much.
Add some mint and red onion; the contrast between the juicy, sweet melon and the crunchy, sharp, peppery onions (not to mention the crumbly, creamy feta) is terrific. Fresh mint ties everything together for some summertime bliss. Mint oxidizes and turns dark quickly after it is cut or torn, so add it just before assembling and serving the salad.
Finally, use a straightforward dressing of olive oil, balsamic or red wine vinegar, and a bit of salt and pepper, if desired. Taste the feta to see how salty it is before you add salt to the dressing.
You can cube or ball the melon up to two days ahead of time. Drain off any juice that may have collected in the bottom. (Pour it into a glass and drink up! Delicious!) You can also cube or crumble the feta two days ahead of time, and store all of the components in the fridge. Leave the assembly for right before you serve the salad. Garnish with some additional fresh mint sprigs, if desired.
Watermelon Feta Salad
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons good balsamic or red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste (optional)
6 cups cubed or balled watermelon, chilled
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
1 ½ cups diced or crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup whole mint leaves
In a small bowl or container, combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, if using.
In a large shallow bowl or serving platter, distribute the salad ingredients evenly and attractively. Spread a layer of half of the watermelon cubes or balls, then sprinkle half of the onions over it, then the feta. Tear half of the mint leaves into large pieces, and sprinkle over the feta. Repeat with another layer of watermelon, onions, feta and mint.
Shake or stir the dressing to re-combine, and pour it evenly over the salad. Serve chilled.
Variations on Watermelon Feta Salad:
Change out the mint for another herb — try chervil, basil or thyme.
Add 1 to 2 cups diced, seeded cucumber.
Replace feta with crumbled goat cheese, diced fresh mozzarella, or ricotta salata.
Add a few handfuls of peppery arugula leaves.
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Katie Workman writes regularly about food for The Associated Press. She has written two cookbooks focused on family-friendly cooking, “Dinner Solved!” and “The Mom 100 Cookbook.” She blogs at http://www.themom100.com/about-katie-workman. She can be reached at Katie@themom100.com.