Everyday Gourmet (8/13/09)

Watermelon Waterloo

Aug. 13, 2009

By Kim Dannies

Everyone has a summer recipe they fully intend to try, and then — whamo! — the season is over before our good intentions become reality. Watermelon salad is one of those recipes for me. For a decade, I have been drooling over piles of juicy watermelon salad pictures just begging to be actualized. So last week, when I finally committed to making a trendy version of the recipe, I experienced a crushing defeat. I couldn’t believe how disappointed I was.

It’s entirely my fault. I chose a recipe that calls for the watermelon to be grilled. How crazy is that? Who wants a greasy, charred, dried out piece of melon when the fruit is perfection itself? Sometimes food fads and glossy images sneak-attack, sending my common sense right down the garbage disposal. So, after trying several variations, I did what I always do — I concocted my own simple recipe.

In this season of magnificent produce it’s easy to avoid cooking battles. First, don’t be seduced by a recipe if it sounds too complicated or inane (no matter how pretty the picture is.) Two, take a picture of your own simple creation; I guarantee it will thrill you, your family and friends. And finally, never, ever try for grill marks on something that’s 94 percent water.

Tomato, Melon and Mint Salad

Cut some ripe honeydew melon and watermelon into dice-sized cubes; set the cubes on a paper towel. The fruit should be handled gently and equal 2 to 3 cups. Slice 2 cups of red and yellow cherry tomatoes in half and sprinkle with kosher salt. Measure 4 handfuls of fresh arugula into a salad bowl. Add 2 handfuls of gently torn, fresh mint leaves. Toast 1/2 cup of shelled pistachio nuts in the toaster oven until fragrant.

Dressing: In a small jar combine 2 teaspoons of lime juice and 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar; add 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard, 1/3 cup of olive oil, 1 crushed garlic clove and pinches of salt and pepper. Shake well until creamy.

To serve: Pour dressing over greens and mix gently using clean hands. Portion each chilled plate with greens and top with a generous scattering of the fruits and nuts. Top with crumbled feta cheese and a grind of fresh pepper. Serves 4 main or 6 side salads.

Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three college-aged daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.