Happy Friday! A busy day is about to unfold so I plan to keep this shorter and sweeter than slices of watermelon on a hot day. This morning I want to share my favorite summer salad, featuring—you guessed it—the season’s quintessential pink-fleshed fruit.
That’s where the predictability ends. “What is in this?” your dinner guests will ask you. They see the salad on the picnic table, alone and beguiling. Complex and intriguing. They have to take a closer look.
Smugly, you smile and make them guess. The ingredients list will raise some eyebrows. It starts out normal enough: watermelon and lime. Then it gets spicy: cilantro, arugula, Thai chilies. Then things straight up get weird: radishes, feta, soy sauce, sunflower seeds.
Bravely, you lead by example and lift the fork to your lips. Fireworks of flavor explode in your mouth—the crunch of the radish, the coolness of mint, the heat of the peppers, the juiciness of the watermelon. It’s impossible to sum up this salad in a simple description. I’m waxing poetic, so let’s try a haiku:
The taste of summer
Chopped into a wooden bowl
Don’t skimp the dressing
Kudos to Jamie Oliver for dreaming up this wacky salad. And a million thanks to Melinda Creamer, her daughters MeLisa and Michaela, and all the church ladies who catered our wedding a week shy of five years ago, including this recipe.
Melinda gave us a cookbook of the recipes from that day. Our favorites are easy to spot by the condition of the cookbook pages. This one looks like a Jackson Pollock painting, covered with soy sauce splatters and sesame oil splotches. Taste, and be amazed.
Thai Watermelon Salad
Adapted (very slightly) from Jamie Oliver
¼ of a watermelon
2 handfuls of fresh cilantro, leaves picked
2 handfuls of arugula
2 handfuls of fresh mint, leaves picked
1 small bunch of radishes, finely sliced
A handful of peanuts or sunflower seeds
4 oz feta cheese
A thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 red, 1 yellow, and 1 green chili, deseeded and finely sliced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Juice of 3-4 limes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Remove the skin from the watermelon and cut the flesh into small cubes. Pick out as many seeds as you can be bothered by—or just buy a seedless watermelon.
When you pick the cilantro leaves, remove the stringier parts of the stalks but keep the finer ones, as they are nice to eat. Place in a bowl with the arugula, mint, watermelon, and radishes. Put the ginger, chili, soy sauce, olive oil, and sesame oil into a smaller bowl and add just enough lime juice to cut through the oil—the number of limes you use will depend on how juicy they are. Season to taste.
Place your peanuts or sunflower seeds in the oven or in a pan on the stove and warm through, then roughly pound them in a pestle and mortar or chop them on a cutting board.
Dress the salad immediately before serving. Top with feta and the hot peanuts or sunflower seeds.