• Watermelon And Feta Salad With Mint and Radish

    feta7And back to blogging! It has been a nice few weeks off here at the farm. Not that we haven’t been busy cooking, but one of the few “downsides” of food writing (there aren’t really any downsides) is that we are often in search of the next new thing. Meanwhile, there are dozens of great recipes we want to revisit. So we spent a few weeks making some of our favorites. Lots of Caprese salads, barbecue, fish and rice bowls, summer corn salads and many a few Caipirinhas for the World Cup. All good.

    fetafeta1But we did try a few new things, including this salad of fresh watermelon with feta cheese and some mint and radishes. Now, watermelon and feta salads are nothing new, and they are very tasty. But we found this recipe to be an improvement on the original. Not that there is anything wrong with the surprisingly good combination of sweet melon and salty feta, but this is a recipe that you can certainly tune and tweak to your tastes.

    feta3feta4In this case we adapted a recipe in the Lobster Roll cookbook (from the Hampton’s fish shack of the same name) that adds some mint, radish and a balsamic vinaigrette. You get some herbal notes from the mint, heat and crunch from the radishes and the balsamic adds a welcome tang to the sweet and salty notes. More flavor, more texture…good stuff. And still a very easy salad to put together.

    feta5feta6The only issues with this recipe are in the details. Use only the best / sweetest watermelon, taste your feta for salt and adjust the seasoning, and definitely taste your radishes for heat and tune for your taste. A little kick from the radishes is a good thing, too much….not so good.

    feta8Otherwise, this is a perfect salad to serve with big, rich summer dishes like steaks, burgers and/or barbecue. The bright flavors cut through the fat and clean the palate for your next bite. Perfect for outdoor dining.

    feta9Watermelon and Feta Salad with Mint and Radish:

    Notes Before You Start:

    • No notes, once you have a watermelon you need recipes. This is a good one.

    What You Get: A light, flavorful and refreshing summer salad. Something to do with the watermelon you bought at the farmers market.

    What You Need: No special equipment required.

    How Long? About 15 minutes, mostly cubing watermelon.

    Ingredients:

    • 4 cups (3-4 pounds) of watermelon, cut in about 1 inch cubes
    • 8 red radishes, thinly sliced
    • 1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled
    • 12 mint leaves, finely chopped
    • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • Kosher salt
    • Freshly ground black pepper

    Assemble:

    1. In a small bowl, mix the oil and vinegar.
    2. Add the watermelon, radishes, mint and feta to a large salad bowl. Add half the dressing, toss well and taste. Add more dressing and seasoning as needed. Serve.
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  • Bonus Cocktail (and “Mocktail”): The Watermelon-Drop

    Watermelon Drop Cocktail.

    It has taken us too long a while, but we promised to make some cocktail recipes that also include an alcohol-free “mocktail” version, so this is the first. And as our kids enjoy their “mocktails”, this will probably not be the last.

    In any event, this week we got our first watermelons at the farmers market (ours are still tiny) and we just had to make a watermelon cocktail. The challenge with watermelon is that has very light, tasty and “summery” flavor and a great aroma, but both are easily lost when mixed with too many strong flavors. So when making a cocktail with watermelon, we tend to look towards vodka (although tequila and watermelon also play well). The Watermelon Drop combines watermelon juice, lemon juice, a bit of simple syrup or agave nectar, some (optional) rhubarb bitters and vodka, preferably quality lemon vodka. And you can simply omit the vodka for a very tasty summer cooler or “mocktail”.

    Muddle chunks of watermelon.

    These days many mixologists, and more than a few cocktail bloggers, have a certain amount of disdain for vodka. Plain vodka has little flavor, by design, and has light texture and little aroma. If you want to add flavor to a cocktail with the base spirit, vodka won’t add much. But if you want some booze in a drink and have the fruit or vegetable shine through, vodka is a good fit. And it is “OK” to simply want some buzz with your juice…nothing to be ashamed of (in moderation 😉 .

    Fine-strain pulp to extract the juice.

    These days, many vodkas come with fruit (and/or other flavorings). Most are just cheap hooch with some artificial flavors. But some are high-quality spirits infused with fruit or vegetable flavors in a style almost like gin. You can also make very good vodka-fruit infusions at home. These kinds of vodkas are quite good, and do add a lot to cocktails. In this cocktail, we use Hangar One’s Buddhas Hand Vodka and it is a lovely addition to the drink. But even here we use a light hand with the vodka, we do not want to dilute the watermelon too much. And if you are curious, Buddhas Hand is a type of Asian citrus similar to lemons but more aromatic- good stuff, and a great compliment to watermelon.

    Watermelon Drop cocktail and ingredients.

    To make this drink, you do need to take the extra step of making watermelon juice. We simply muddle chunks of watermelon and then fine-strain the pulp. A cup of watermelon chunks will get you 2-3 ounces of juice. It only takes a few minutes, but will leave your bar or kitchen a bit sticky (such is life with watermelons). Otherwise simply combine the watermelon juice, lemon juice, simple syrup / agave, rhubarb bitters (if you have them, they add a nice touch) and the vodka, if using. If making a cocktail, we prefer to shake and strain the drink, if making a “mocktail”, serving on the rocks works as well.

    So if simply eating watermelon (and spitting seeds) isn’t enough fun, try this drink out. It is light and tasty, but has big watermelon flavor. And the Watermelon Drop also makes a good “mocktail”, so feel free to share with the kids…

    The Watermelon Drop:

    Ingredients:

    • 2 and 1/2 oz. watermelon juice (about 1 cup diced watermelon, muddled and strained)
    • 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
    • 1/3 oz. simple syrup or agave nectar
    • 1 oz. lemon vodka (Hangar One Buddhas Hand is really good here). Omit for a “mocktail”
    • 2 dashes rhubarb bitters (optional, FYI some bitters have alcohol- check the label before using in “mocktail”)

    Assemble:

    1. Dice watermelon and muddle in a large glass or bowl. Fine-strain the pulp and collect the juice.
    2. Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupé. Serve.
    3. If making a “mocktail”, follow all the steps above, but omit the vodka. Serve in a chilled cocktail glass or lowball glass with ice.