September 28th, 2009

wiley watermelon

For some time now, great recipes that pair sweet watermelon with briny feta cheese have been circulating the ‘net. I offer my version, of which I am especially fond, because:

1. The sherry vinaigrette, fresh oregano, and sharp red onion bring sweet and salt together with Spanish-Mediterranean flair. (The clusters of Thai basil growing in my garden make a pretty side garnish, and a chiffonade of a few leaves add a licorice note to the salad—an optional note—but a complementary one.)

2. I use award-winning Bonnie Blue Goat Feta (no old socks pungency here.) So fresh!

3. I am now an official Grower of Delicious Watermelons, and have the misguided sense that my watermelons are the best…

Here’s our watermelon story:
My brother’s graphic design studio is located in a little house in Berry Hill, whose sunny back yard has been the decades-long site of next-door neighbor Hooper’s garden. When Mr. Hooper, alas, moved into assisted living this spring, my brother proposed that Bill and I continue the Hooper tradition. I happily agreed, but was unable to get the garden tilled and planted until late June.

Volunteer plants and seeds donated by friend Maggie comprised our plantings.
Included was a cluster of sprouted watermelon seeds that I snapped up from her compost heap. At one end of our garden, we created four large mounds of dirt, amply spaced, into which Bill placed every sprouted seed.

“Don’t you think we should thin those?” I asked.

“No,” Bill said, packing fistfuls of seedlings into the dirt hills. “This will work out fine.”

Needless to say, in short order, the garden plot became overrun with dogged watermelon vines. They bullied the zucchini, trekked up cornstalks, snaked around sunflowers, venturing past the grassy garden edge and into the driveway. No stopping them!

In watermelon world, it’s a 90 day cycle from germination to ready-to-pick. And, in that time, hidden beneath all the greenery, those vines produced plenty of mighty nice melons. Late in the season, we have begun harvesting the wiley ones..

This beauty weighed in at 17 lbs….

…and was deeply colored and sugared!

Watermelon batons, sliced red onion, and fresh oregano, just before dressing

Sherry vinegar is distinctive and full flavored.

A pinch of coarse grain mustard helps to emulsify to vinaigrette, and gives the dressing a creamy yellow-brown hue.

Sherry Vinaigrette

3 T. Sherry Vinegar
1 t. Fresh Oregano
¼ t. Coarse Grain Mustard
¼ t. Salt
pinch Red Pepper Flakes
9 T. Olive Oil

Mix the first five ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil, one tablespoon at a time, until the vinaigrette emulsifies. Taste for seasonings and adjust if needed.

Watermelon-Feta Salad

3 cups Ripe Watermelon, cut into batons
½ medium Red Onion, sliced paper-thin
½ cup Feta cheese, crumbled
a handful Fresh Oregano leaves, chopped
Fresh Thai Basil (optional) chiffonade and garnish
Salt & Black Pepper

Salad Greens

recipe of Sherry Vinaigrette

Place cut batons of melon with sliced red onion and chopped oregano into a bowl. Sprinkle with a little salt and black pepper. Let it sit for 15 minutes and drain off any excess liquid. Pour sherry vinaigrette over the mix, add crumbled feta, and gently toss.

Place onto a bed of salad greens. Garnish with fresh herbs and serve. Makes 2 large or 4 regular servings.

The feta adheres nicely to the watermelon bites. As the salad sits, there is some pooling of watermelon juice, delicious for sopping.

A fine early fall lunch on Maggie’s back porch

Posted in Fruit, Recipes, Salads

6 Responses to “wiley watermelon”
  1. Maggie Says:

    I will vouch for the home-grown, super sweet watermelon! And the salad was delicious, as advertised!! As always, Nance, it was a fun visit!

  2. BAN Says:

    Congratulations!That’s a good looking watermelon! Salad sounds odd, but tasty, nonetheless.

  3. patti Says:

    Oh, I do like the idea of sherry vinaigrette–
    I will try this.

  4. mark Says:

    This is a great Salad. I pickle the purple onions in rwv and a hint of sugar.

  5. julie Says:

    This salad was Amazing. I loved your presentation of this at the Southern Festival of Books yesterday.

  6. Good Food Matters » Blog Archive » A Simple Autumn Supper Says:

    [...] 5 individual sweet potato plants. Over the 4th of July holiday, I moved them into their new home at The Hooper Garden. They grew vigorously, suffering only one setback of bunny munching, a tangle of vines competing [...]

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