A Perfectly Pretty Watermelon Salad
It took me a long time to accept the idea of fruit in my salads. Too gimmicky, if you had asked me! As a properly raised French child, the only acceptable fruit that was not dessert was an appetizer of charentais melon with port (or maybe Jambon de Bayonne, the French Basque version of Prosciutto). But now? Now… I toss blueberries in massaged kale salad; I mix cantaloupes, canaries, and honeydews with purslane, shallots & jalapenos; I love peaches everywhere, including in salsa, or sliced thinly on a goat cheese open sandwich with black pepper & a drizzle of honey… and when it comes to watermelon, there is almost no limit.
Not only is this particular salad pretty, you can prepare all the ingredients ahead, keep them refrigerated in separate containers, and assemble at the last minute.. which makes it perfect for entertaining or even for potluck. Imagine the exclamations! Edible flowers bring a nice touch to the dish – in fact they are part of the WOW factor, something we can all relish occasionally. Make sure they have been grown organically and for food consumption – too many pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, acaricides, wormicides etc to worry about otherwise. What you get will depend on where you are and time f the year. For me, in early to midsummer, the garden produces still a few violas, bachelor’s buttons, thyme blossoms, garden sage, calendula, cilantro blossoms, monarda, and Orange day lily petals (Hemerocallis fulva). Later in the season, I’ll be considering pineapple sage, mint flowers, nasturtium, fennel flowers, dill flowers, runner bean flowers, or sunflower “petals”. Rinse the edible flowers in ice-water, spin them dry gently and keep them refrigerated in an airtight container in between paper towels until ready to use.
- 1 medium red salad onion, peeled
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 fairly packed cups young interesting greens (one kind or, preferably, a mix) such as lamb’s quarters, watercress, baby arugula, purslane, young Malabar spinach, chickweed… even baby Bibb lettuce
- 1 cup of young sweet or tart mixed herbs such as mint, thai basil, lemon basil, purple basil, anise hyssop, wood sorrel
- 8 tablespoons raspberry vinaigrette (recipe follows)
- 1 small red watermelon, preferably seedless, about 3-4 pounds
- Freshly ground pepper
- 2 ounces ricotta salata or feta
- ¼ cup (or more) organically grown edible flower petals (optional)
Halve and thinly slice (as thinly as you can) the onion, including the green leaves. Set in a bowl, sprinkle with salt, and set aside for about an hour to let the onion soften.
Arrange the greens on a large serving platter. Drizzle half the vinaigrette on the greens.
Wash and quarter watermelon along its long side. Cut off rind and white parts. Slice remaining flesh in ¼-inch-thick slices. Arrange on top of the greens, alternating with the onion and the herbs.
Crumble or thinly slice the cheese over the salad. Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette on top. Pepper generously. Sprinkle edible flowers all over and serve immediately.
You may of course, make individual plates if you prefer.
First make the sauce and use some to make the dressing. You will have left over raspberry sauce: try it drizzled on salads, ice-cream, yogurt, plain cake (or chocolate cake), or in a favorite cocktail.
Yields approximately 1 ¼ cup of dressing and ¾ cup raspberry sauce
- 1 pint red raspberries
- ¼ cup sugar (+/-)
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
Simmer raspberries in a covered small non-reactive saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water until the berries are very soft and releasing their juice. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve or in a jelly bag, pressing hard to extract as much juice/purée as possible.
Measure the juice – you should have about 1 cup (if not adjust the sugar proportions up or down as needed). Stir in ¼ cup of sugar (more or less)until fully dissolved. Let cool thoroughly.
Whisk together until thoroughly combined ¼ cup raspberry sauce and vinegar. Whisk in olive oil. Vinaigrette might be kept refrigerated for up to 10 days. Take out a couple of hours before using so the oil melts and shake thoroughly before using.
Refrigerate the extra sauce for up to a week.