A slice of watermelon its own, sitting on the soft grass felt only beneath a tattered picnic blanket, is the ideal cap to any outdoor feast. A simple summer pleasure, yes – though I prefer watermelon in savoury applications best. The play of salty-sweet-crunchy-cool-creamy is worthy of applause. It’s unassumingly satisfying and can be interpreted and acted out in myriad ways.
Watermelon and mint salad recipes are barely recipes, but they’re worth writing down as to not forget about them. They feed a crowd, are a last-minute contribution to a dinner and pair well with just about everything summer-fresh and hot off the grill.
The Canada Day long weekend just passed, and I served watermelon and feta as an appetizer for dinner on the Friday night. Our friends brought over cantaloupe with prosciutto and mozzarella, along with more watermelon in the form of a salad, tossed with peppery arugula, cubes of feta and red onion. Doubling up on watermelon salad is obviously no problem around here.
The gatherings continued throughout the weekend, all centred around food, drinks and friends.
Saturday morning, breakfast was watermelon salad, leftover from the night before, still retaining (albeit, less so) its palate awakening freshness. On Saturday night, we cycled down to the beer garden before walking to the Hamilton waterfront for the requisite Canada Day fireworks.
On Sunday afternoon, my boyfriend and I travelled to see my dad, brother, sister-in-law and nieces. They hosted us for a BBQ lunch, where we left full and happy and indeed, ready for a nap. We got home, took a couple hours to recover and headed to a friend’s house on Sunday night for another BBQ. For this meal, I contributed hummus to compliment the hosts’ smoky grilled vegetables, before hopping over to a neighbour’s house for a candlelit spread of wine, cheese and spritzes.
The eating and drinking didn’t stop there – Monday was a holiday, too. So, we miraculously fit in one more dinner, and this one was pretty special.
I made this watermelon salad recipe I’m sharing here as my appetizer meets side salad addition to the final BBQ of the long weekend, one that lingered into the night thanks to excellent food and wine, good conversation and a late evening slice of Dorie Greenspan’s French Yogurt Cake with lemon, griddled to crisp ever so slightly on the outside before being topped with a scoop of locally made vanilla ice cream and strawberries tossed with maple syrup. A more perfect finale to the weekend does not exist.
The takeaway from the weekend, one we went into without any plans, is to reach out, spend time with friends and family, eat a lot, stay hydrated and always keep a seedless watermelon on hand in the refrigerator.
Watermelon Salad with Mint Yogurt & Pickled Red Onions
1 red onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp honey
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup fridge-cold full-fat plain Greek yogurt (a very thick variety works best)
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh mint, more to garnish
1/2 fridge-cold seedless watermelon, skin removed, cut into large cubes
8 kalamata olives, pitted, roughly chopped
coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
flaky sea salt, to taste
extra-virgin olive oil, to taste
1. Add red onion to a 1 L capacity heatproof glass jar. In a small saucepan, bring vinegar, water, honey and salt to a boil. Remove from heat and immediately pour over onions, pressing down to ensure all are submerged in liquid. Seal and set aside for at least 30 minutes, or cool and refrigerate airtight up to 1 month.
2. Right before serving, in a medium bowl, combine yogurt with mint and thickly spread onto the base of a platter or inside of a shallow serving bowl. Top yogurt mixture with watermelon cubes in a single layer and sprinkle with olives, additional mint, pepper and salt, to taste. Scatter over strands of red onion (about 1/4 cup worth), drizzle with olive oil and serve.