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~ Lemon-Dressed Arugula, Watermelon & Feta Salad ~

IMG_4747Watermelon salad in October?  You betcha.  It's been unseasonably warm here in the Northeast, with unusually mild-to-hot Summer temperatures lasting into our four-seasoned Fall.  While most (but not all) of our garden has indeed met its end-for-this-year (Summer basil, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, etc.), the extra growing time has rendered it a stellar year for watermelon, which, in honesty, doesn't do well when the the days grow short and the temperatures go low.

Twenty-plus years ago, watermelon salad was trendy everywhere.  One of my favorite versions was served in a now defunct high-end French restaurant right here in Happy Valley:  The Victorian Manor.  It appeared on their menu every Summer for several years.  That said, watermelon salad was/is pretty much the same everywhere, meaning, there are no surprises:  A well-balanced, sweet, savory and salty mixture of baby arugula leaves, chunks of watermelon, thin-shaved red onion, crumbled feta cheese and torn mint leaves, tossed in a refreshingly-light citrusy vinaigrette.

I believe my version is better, uh, way-better than "the typical ones".  I know, that's bragging, but, hear me out, as I believe my reasoning to be sound.  Instead of using a combination of orange and lemon juice to make the vinaigrette, mine is full-throttle lemon-flavored.  Orange juice is ok, but lemon-infused olive oil is the bomb, and, when mixed with white balsamic vinegar, it takes my salad over-the-top.  When it comes to this salad, it is all about the dressing, and, this one is spectacular.  On a personal note, I added dried mint flakes to the dressing, instead of minced, fresh mint to the salad, because, while I'm a fan of subtle mint flavor, I am not a fan of fresh mint.

IMG_4756We're celebrating our harvest w/watermelon salad tonight.

IMG_4720 2Watermelon salad -- just in time for Oktoberfest!

6a0120a8551282970b0240a490dbbc200dFor the lemon-infused, white balsamic vinaigrette:

1/2  cup white balsamic vinegar

1/4  cup lemon-infused olive oil

2  tablespoons sugar

1  tablespoon Dijon mustard

1  teaspoon each: dried herbes de Provence & mint flakes

Step 1.  In a 1-cup container with a tight-fitting lid and pourer top, place all ingredients. Vigorously shake until well-combined.  Use as a marinade and/or dress salad and store leftovers in refrigerator.

IMG_4727For two salads:

1  6-ounce bag baby arugula leaves  

1  cup shaved red onion cut into half-moon shapes

1  cup feta cheese crumbles

8-10 tablespoons vinaigrette

4  cups 1" watermelon balls or cubes

freshly-ground peppercorn blend, for garnish

IMG_4731 IMG_4731 IMG_4731 IMG_4731 IMG_4731~Step 1.  Place the arugula, red onion and feta in a large bowl.  Add 6 tablespoons of the lemon vinaigrette.  Toss to coat these ingredients in the dressing.  Add the watermelon and the remaining 2-4 tablespoons vinaigrette.  Toss again and serve immediately*.  I mean ASAP.  Why? Arugula, like spinach, is a tender green, and will begin to wilt quickly.

IMG_4759*Note:  When I'm cutting into one of these big, long watermelons, I like to make and use "rind rings" as natural vessels to hold each portion of salad.  Simply slice the watermelon into 3" lengths, to form 3" tall discs. Cut around the inside perimeter of each disk, and gently remove the fruit from the rind.  Slice the fruit into cubes or use a melon baller to fashion round balls.  Place each "rind ring" on a flat salad-sized plate. Portion the salad into the open-bottomed salad bowls and serve.

Serve the moment this succulent salad gets tossed:

IMG_4761Lemon-Dressed Arugula, Watermelon & Feta Salad:  Recipe yields 3/4 cup vinaigrette and 2 salads.

Special Equipment List:  1-cup measuring container w/tight fitting lid and pourer top; cutting board; chef's knife; melon baller (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b0240a49029ab200dCook's Note:  My lemon-infused white-balsamic vinaigrette is great with vegetables too.  For example: lemon and asparagus go hand-in-hand.  It's a classic combination. My ~ Asparagus Salad with Lemon-Balsamic Vinaigrette ~ is another quick-to-make salad too. A salad without lettuce?  There's no law against it, and, in the case of this salad, lettuce is just in the way.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)


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