- 1 small watermelon (4 to 5 pounds)
- Sea salt
- 1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 5 ounces baby arugula, stemmed
- 1/4 cup California Olive Ranch extra-virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup (about 4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
1. Cut the watermelon in half lengthwise, turn the halves cut-side down, and cut each into 1-inch slices. Trim the rind from the watermelon and then cut each half-moon of trimmed watermelon in ½-inch cubes by cutting crosswise and lengthwise in ½-inch increments (think checkerboard). Arrange the squares on a serving platter. Sprinkle each square with a few sea salt crystals.
2. Whisk together the vinegar and honey in a small pot over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer and reduce until it is syrupy, 5 to 7 minutes. Let it cool to room temperature, then drizzle the watermelon with the vinegar syrup.
3. In a medium bowl, toss the arugula with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and pile the greens on top of the watermelon. Drizzle with the remaining vinegar syrup and sprinkle with the feta before serving.
Chef’s Note: Watermelon always makes me think back to being a kid, playing silly games every Fourth of July at my swim club. One of these was a watermelon relay race. The melons got covered in grease to slick them up and we raced back and forth in the pool, trying to outswim the others while pushing a watermelon. It was fun stuff, plus it was pretty cool that a watermelon could float considering I could hardly lift one at the time. When I moved on to college, watermelon showed up again, only this time we pumped an entire melon full of vodka and I ate way too much of it, forgetting the melon was now 60 proof. That was a whole different kind of fun.
But through all that fun, I never appreciated the sweet and refreshing flavor of the watermelon as much as I did the first time I tried it with a bit of sea salt. It was a miracle! The melon was no longer overly sweet; instead it had a bit of salty crunch that balanced out the natural flavors. I realize that many chefs have their own takes on savory watermelon salads these days, but in case you have yet to try one, I really think you’ll love this combination. The balsamic-honey reduction adds acidity, fresh arugula brings a bit of savory spice, and some salty and rich feta cheese ties it all together. There’s really nothing better on a warm summer day.
Recipe Credit: Girl in the Kitchen (Chronicle Books, 2011) by Stephanie Izard Reprinted with permission from the publisher