This Memorial Day weekend many of us will ring in summer 2016 with cook outs, pool parties, and a four day work week. We expect some of the usual staples to be present: hamburgers, hotdogs, ice cream, sun burns, you know the drill. What I’m most excited about when summer comes around is the abundance of my favorite summer produce. Think juicy peaches, sweet strawberries, dark red tomatoes, cucumbers, and of course, watermelon! Most Memorial Day parties will be sure to serve a watermelon or four, and on a hot summer day, nothing hits the spot quite like biting into a cold watermelon wedge. Older children will tell the younger ones to be careful not to swallow the seeds otherwise they’ll grow big ol’ watermelons in their bellies. We’ll laugh and remember that once we believed that to be true as well.
This year, consider changing up your usual platter of sliced up melon for a fresh take on a traditional favorite: Zesty Watermelon Salad. This salad combines sweet melon with refreshing citrus flavors that are sure to cool you down after a hot day spent outdoors. This salad is also super easy to modify to different tastes, so feel free to let the creative juices flow!
Begin by making the dressing. Combine the lime zest, lime juice, lemon juice, olive oil, chives, scallions, and cilantro or parsley. Some people have a very strong aversion to cilantro, and if any of those folks are coming to your party, just substitute fresh parsley. It will be delicious either way!
Next, chop up your seedless watermelon. I cheated when I made this for a client the other day and purchased a pre-cut melon from Whole Foods. Their cubes were quite large, so I cut them again into smaller pieces. Peel your jicama, and cut that up into cubes a bit smaller than your watermelon cubes. If you’ve never used jicama before, don’t be afraid. It’s a root vegetable that comes up a lot in Mexican cuisine. I like to describe it as a cross between an apple and a potato–with the juiciness and freshness of an apple and the starchiness of a potato. Jicama doesn’t have a strong flavor by itself, but put some lime juice on that bad boy and get ready for a tasty treat. It’s very light and crunchy, and it pairs amazingly well with the watermelon. If you’re still wary, substitute cherry or grape tomatoes instead. When I made this most recently for a client it was with tomatoes by their request. It’s great either way! If you’re going with the cherry or grape tomatoes, cut them in half from end to end.
Put your chopped watermelon, jicama, and/or tomatoes right into the dressing. At this point you want to add your cheese. Cotija cheese is another ingredient common in Mexican food. It’s a light, crumbly cheese kind of like feta. You can use either one. You can even go Italian with it and add parmesan! All of these cheeses add a little saltiness, so don’t add salt until you’ve put in the cheese and tasted it all together. It probably does need some salt and pepper to enhance all of the other flavors, so give it a try at this point and adjust as you see fit!
Watermelon and Tomato Salad
1 whole seedless watermelon, cubed
1 cup chopped Jicama OR 2 pints grape or cherry
1 TB lime zest
The juice of two whole limes
The juice of one lemon
3 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 TB fresh chives, chopped
2 scallions, chopped
1⁄4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
1⁄4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
1⁄2 cup crumbled feta, Cotija, or parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
- Combine EVOO, lime juice, lemon juice, lime zest, chives, scallions, cilantro or parsley, and basil in a large mixing bowl.
- Add watermelon and jicama and/or cherry tomatoes to dressing.
- Crumble desired cheese, toss to combine.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.