Mint Watermelon Salad

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Mint Watermelon Salad is one of the easiest recipes you can make in a pinch. All it takes is watermelon, feta cheese, mint and black pepper. After you’ve assembled the ingredients, place them in the refrigerator to let everything get to know each other. It’s likely that you are going to enjoy this recipe a lot more than you think you will.

Watermelon, Feta, and Mint Salad Recipe

Watermelon, feta, and mint salad in a bowl on a colorful tropical print napkin

WHY IT WORKS

  • A traditional combination is sweet watermelon, salty feta, and fresh mint.
  • The aromatic qualities of the watermelon are enhanced by generously sprinkling on minced lemon zest.
  • Instead of mixing it in with the rest of the salad, crumbling the feta over the top gives the dish a more unique final texture and flavor.

I am aware. Another recipe for a watermelon, feta, and mint salad. Is one necessary? Actually, no, but I’ll share one with you today for a good cause. The watermelon, feta, and mint salad is similar to a traditional Caprese in many ways because both dishes combine a sweet, juicy fruit with a single herb and creamy cheese (mild in one case, sharp in the other). The primary distinction is that a watermelon, mint, and feta salad is far more tolerant of riffing and improvising, whereas it’s simple (and all too usual) to become overzealous and f*&k up a Caprese salad.

But you need to create the groundwork first before you can do that.

Every enduring, well-liked dish (or TV show, music, actor, or basically anything) goes through a few distinct stages: creation, early popularity spike, pushback, and finally acceptance into the cultural vocabulary. The watermelon, feta, and mint salad was well into its initial phase of popularity when I first met it at a restaurant I worked at back in 2005, though I have no idea when or where it was invented (Google Trends statistics appear to suggest the summer of 2004).

There, we would serve a nicely arranged arrangement of six perfectly cut watermelon cubes dressed simply with lemon and garnished with feta cheese crumbles and mint chiffonade. Of course, we would also over-accessorize the plate (as was the fashion at the time) with lychees, muskmelon that had been roasted, and probably a half-dozen additional ingredients that I can’t recall right now.

Since then, watermelon and feta salads with mint have experienced some blowback before evolving into a go-to summertime dish at my house (and, perhaps, at many of yours as well). When modifying that recipe for usage at home, I’ve learnt a few things. One: Almost all of the unnecessary ingredients can be removed. Two: The watermelon’s quality is crucial, but the feta is much more crucial. Thirdly, a little zest may go a long way.

How to Choose the Most Flavorful Watermelon

Cubes of watermelon on a wooden cutting board.

Selecting a wonderful watermelon is the first step in making a great watermelon salad, just as finding a great wine is the first step in pouring a fantastic glass of wine. When Adri and I lived in Harlem, I used to buy my watermelons from my watermelon guy, an elderly man who would park his pickup on a corner with the cargo bed stuffed full of watermelons that he had hauled up from his family farm in Georgia. The only items he was selling today were peanuts, watermelons, smoked turkey necks, and collard greens. He would set up a folding chair under a tiny tent and man a turkey fryer modified to boil peanuts.

He grew amazing watermelons. It is sweet, dense, intensely scented, and colorful. a far cry from the typical tasteless, watery watermelon seen in supermarkets. In my current residence in California, I have yet to discover my watermelon guy, but there are still methods to get respectable specimens. Going to your local farmers market in the summer and looking for vendors that have opened watermelons and will allow you to taste one before buying is by far the best method.

Is the grocery store your sole choice? Here are some suggestions to make the most of it:

  • Be on the lookout for watermelons that seem weighty for their size. Too-rapid or large watermelons may develop hollow cracks and gaps, which give them a lighter feel. These watermelons often taste less intensely sweet. Dense watermelons ought to smell nicer and taste sweeter.
  • Melons with a clear stem break should be sought out. All fruits, including watermelons, are joined to their parent plants at one end. The stem will frequently automatically separate when they are fully ripe, leaving a tidy crater in its place. The stem frequently resists breaking apart cleanly when the melons are selected before they are fully mature, leaving some or all of itself at the attachment place. However, a clean stem crater is typically a very excellent sign. This is not to say that all watermelons with some stem attached won’t be nice—many still are.
  • Tap your knuckles on the watermelon. Very hollow-sounding watermelons most likely are. Ignore them.
  • Look for more compact varieties. Usually (though not always), smaller melon types have a more intense flavor.

I prefer to cut the watermelon into bite-sized cubes rather than the fancy-looking slabs, stacks, or rounds that appear to be trendy and need for the use of an additional utensil at the dinner table to keep things simple for the diner.

What’s the Best Feta for Salad?

The watermelon and feta are the two fruits with the most varying quality. To see how much diversity there actually is, I purchased every variety of feta that was offered at the Whole Foods and Safeway stores near me. It appears like there is a lot.

Fresh cheese known as feta is created by brining squeezed curds in salt water. The saline flavor is typically prioritized over all others in the lower-end brands manufactured from cow’s milk. They typically have a very crumbly, dry texture and a saltiness that lacks much flavor. The feta made from sheep’s milk should have a more creamier texture and a flavor that balances saltiness with the distinctive stink of sheep’s milk. This feta can be found locally or imported from Greece or Bulgaria. It’s crucial that it be creamy! It’s what gives you a different texture from the watermelon’s crisp texture, enhancing how refreshing it tastes.

Technically referred to as sirene, Bulgarian feta can have a little creamier texture than Greek feta, though there is a lot of variance among varieties, making generalizations challenging.

The Secret Ingredient in a Great Watermelon Salad

You’re virtually done here once you have a good watermelon and a good feta! You can make a delicious small salad by just tossing the watermelon with some lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and chopped mint, then topping it with feta. Just keep in mind that you need to be zestfully dressed if you want to really jazz up that salad.

Given that it appears so simple, it surprised me how long it took me to realize that chopped lemon zest was the perfect addition to my watermelon, feta, and mint salad.

Chopped lemon zest on the blade of a chef's knife, with watermelon, feta, and mint salad in the background.

For the first few months I worked there in 2005, one of my regular tasks there was to zest citrus fruit and chop it into a fine powder. I would use a peeler to remove the fruit’s strips of zest, carefully remove and toss the pith, and then vigorously rock my knife back and forth for about 30 minutes. Citrus dust that resulted was added as a seasoning to many different foods.

After a few weeks of working on this project, I discovered that I could complete it more quickly by taping three knives together in a straight line and rocking them all at once.

I’m not going to require that everyone chop their zest that finely for my salad. In fact, I much prefer the moister texture and flavorful bursts that come from zest that has been coarsely chopped but not completely ground.

Close-up of cubed watermelon, mint, feta, and lemon zest.

In addition to adding a lemony flavor of its own, a small amount added to the bowl and dusted on top of the final salad brings out the flowery notes in the watermelon and the tanginess of the feta, letting each of those ingredients nearly taste more of themselves.

How to include the feta is the only thing that needs to be decided. Some recipes I’ve seen call for stirring everything together after adding it all to a bowl. This, in my opinion, results in the feta taking over the entire dish and coating the watermelon in its saltiness, especially when using a high-quality, soft and creamy feta. Instead, to give you greater contrast in each mouthful, I prefer to sprinkle feta over the dressed watermelon right before serving.

Platter of watermelon, feta, and mint salad on a wooden board with mint leaves in the background.

Ah, yes, let’s get back to the original query. Do we really need another recipe for a feta, mint, and watermelon salad? I’ll repeat: not really. I could just state, “Hey, stick to your preferred watermelon, feta, and mint salad dish, but what’s this? Consider spending more money on a finer watermelon, looking for sheep’s milk feta, and adding lots of lemon zest.” and you’d likely manage just fine.

You can start adding a few bits of this and that once you’ve refined the base, if you so choose. Consider adding some fresh arugula leaves, cubed cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion, and a few tiny black olive slivers to your dish. Or how about some chile peppers that have been thinly cut for heat? A variation I’ve prepared a few times that includes grilled (and chilled) corn, some cilantro cut with the mint, and I really like it.

Some advice from the test kitchen

If you’re not a fan of the saltiness and crumbliness of feta, fresh mozzarella balls or goat cheese would also work well. If you decide to use regular feta, make sure to taste the salad first before adding any additional finish salt, just in case.

Red onions should be cut into slices, soaked in water for about 15 minutes, drained, and then patted dry before using to lessen their sharp bite.

Once sliced, mint oxidizes and becomes black even more quickly when it is prepared in vinaigrette. Once all the ingredients have been combined, it is preferable to serve right away. Just before serving, sprinkle some additional fresh mint on top if your mint does begin to oxidize for vibrant hues.

YIELDS:4 SERVINGS

PREP TIME:0 HOURS 5 MINS

TOTAL TIME:0 HOURS 10 MINS

INGREDIENTS

1/4 c. 

extra-virgin olive oil

2 tbsp. 

red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp. 

kosher salt

3 c. 

cubed seedless watermelon

1 c. 

medium cucumber, chopped

1 c. 

crumbled feta

1/2 c. 

red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 c. 

coarsely chopped mint, plus more for garish

Flaky sea salt, for garnish (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mix the oil, vinegar, and salt in a small basin.
  2. Combine watermelon, cucumber, feta, red onion, and mint in a sizable serving bowl. Dressing is then tossed in to coat.
  3. If preferred, garnish with more mint and flaky sea salt.

Ingredients in the best watermelon salad

Watermelon feta salad, get out of here. You can’t compete with this watermelon salad! Do not misunderstand us; we adore the combination of sweet melon and salty, savory cheese. However, we really like this recipe better. Even more straightforward and energizing is it. The three components you require are as follows:

  • Ripe watermelon
  • Lime juice
  • Fresh mint

All you’ve got to do? Chop up the melon, chop up the mint, and add the lime juice. Simple as that!

Best way to cut a watermelon

What do you do when a giant watermelon and a huge Chef’s knife are in your way? We’ve been there, so we understand how intimidating it is. How should I cut this enormous fruit? There are several ways to cut a watermelon, however the following is the most effective one we’ve discovered:

  • Slice the watermelon in half around the middle. Don’t do it lengthwise!
  • Lay it on the flat side, and cut slices.
  • Use a pairing knife to cut off the rind. A smaller knife helps you have more control.
  • Make a grid pattern to cut it into cubes. That’s it!

Variations on watermelon salad

A summery watermelon salad has many variations and adders! We’ve made a few different variations that we love. Here are a few adders:

  • Sea salt: Top with flaky sea salt.
  • Feta cheese: The classic Watermelon Feta Salad is a revelation
  • Cucumber: Pair this cooling veggie in Watermelon Cucumber Salad
  • Red onion or shallot: Top with onion for a spicy kick
  • Basil: Use basil instead of mint
  • Lemon or lime zest: Add another citrus twist

Find a ripe watermelon!

Which recipe for watermelon has the finest advice? A ripe watermelon is handy. It’s necessary to obtain the exquisitely sweet flavor; no amount of additional sugar can make up for this. The greatest watermelon-purchasing advice is given below:

  • Shop in watermelon season. If it’s out of season, it’s much more likely to be unripe.
  • Look for a yellow field spot. Most watermelons should have a patch on the bottom, which is where they were resting on the ground before being picked. If the patch is yellow, the watermelon is ripe (if it’s white, it’s unripe).

Storage and make ahead info for watermelon salad

At room temperature, a whole watermelon keeps for up to ten days. However, cutting the watermelon reduces the fruit’s shelf life. A watermelon keeps in the refrigerator for approximately 2 to 3 days after being cut into cubes. We advise consuming it as soon as you can after cutting it because it releases a lot of liquid.

This watermelon salad can be kept in the refrigerator for up to two days, but fresh is always best! Try to consume it as soon as you can because it releases a lot of liquid as it chills.

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