I didn’t jump on the watermelon-feta salad bandwagon. To be honest, I’ve never adored watermelon. If it isn’t seedy, it tends to be mushy or a flavorless mouthful of water.
But in the height of melon season, it’s a different story. Nearby Hermiston is famous for its melons. So, we’re now flush with great-tasting fruit that really does ripen.
So, I’ll buy a seedless watermelon, pop it in the fridge until it’s as chilled as a bottle of rose. Only then, do I set it on my cutting board for some knife strokes to trim off the rind.
One day the basil plants in my garden needed thinning, the temperature climbed too high to turn on an oven and I had an abundance of beautifully ripened watermelon.
I realized that we could be having this oversized fruit for a meal–combined with basil leaves plus shaved fresh radish and a soft, fresh cheese to make it savory.
From appetizer to salad
This salad is based on an appetizer I made for a grilling party I did last summer when we still experienced those kinds of things. I served skewers of marinated fresh mozzarella with a radish slice, a small basil leaf and a cube of watermelon.
It made for a refreshing and memorable bite. And I wanted more.
I left out the skewers and piled watermelon cubes into a bowl, gently tossed in shaved radish with mozzarella marinated in excellent olive oil. Rice wine vinegar provided just enough acidity to balance out the sweetness.
Then, I scattered it with the small leaves pinched from the tops of my basil. I ate a giant bowlful of this standing on my back deck in the near dark–my mouth refreshed–and my taste buds delighted–with every mouthful.
Any fresh cheese will due here, including feta, but I appreciate how the soft mozzarella does not take over the subtle flavors in this watermelon salad. And it also offers a wonderful chew and richness that other cheese don’t.
I thought about all of the grilled items that this watermelon salad could accompany, like shrimp, cod, halibut or chicken. But then again, it didn’t need to play a supporting role to anything else at all.What’s in your watermelon salad? Let me know in the comments below or tag a photo #lynnesforage on Instagram or Facebook.
Watermelon Salad with Mozzarella, Shaved Radish & Basil
This is an ultra-refreshing summer salad you can toss together in minutes. Start by marinating the fresh mozzarella while you prep the radish and basil. Save the watermelon for last, so that you can toss it all together quickly and serve it right away. You can also use this combination to make watermelon skewers (see Recipe Notes).
- 6 ounces fresh mozzarella
- 3 tablespoons fruity extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
- 8 cups diced seedless watermelon, about 1 1/2 inches
- 4 radishes, very thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup lightly packed whole small basil leaves
Dice the mozzarella into bite-sized pieces. Combine it in a small mixing bowl with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Let it marinate for about 5 minutes or longer.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the watermelon and radish. Add the mozzarella with all of the marinade and the rice wine vinegar. Gently toss with clean hands. Add the basil, tearing any larger leaves, toss again and serve immediately.
To make the skewers, dice the fresh mozzarella into 1 1/2-inch cubes before marinating. (You can also use the baby mozzarella balls if you can find them.) Slice the radish slightly thicker for the base. Assemble skewers of a basil leaf, a cube of cheese, a watermelon cube and the radish last. Then stand them on up on the radish with the basil leaf on top.