Now, let me explain -- this is not exactly a new idea or recipe -- the watermelon and feta combination has actually been around for quite a while. I remember seeing it in cooking magazines and on various menus back when I was in high school. And every time I saw it, I thought the same thing -- watermelon and feta? Together? Wouldn't the watermelon make the whole salad watery,? my 14 year old self wondered. Wasn't the feta best paired with tomatoes and cucumbers, like in a Greek salad? And wasn't watermelon best sliced anyways, enjoyed at a picnic or barbecue instead of as a first course? I remember swiftly shooting down my parents' suggestion that we order it as an appetizer at a fancy restaurant in Providence. No, the zucchini and eggplant napoleon was most certainly a better appetizer option, thanks.
Years later, my wiser 26 year old self made this salad with nectarines and burrata, was pleasantly surprised by the result, and figured that whoever created the whole watermelon feta thing might have been on to something. After all, sometimes weird flavor combinations end up being completely genius -- chocolate and mint? bacon and maple syrup? banana and peanut butter? -- and equally convincing of course was the little effort required to prepare the dish.
So, the verdict on this: it is true that the watermelon is sweet and mild and the feta is sharp and salty, but this is precisely why the two work so well together. Both ingredients balance and complement each other perfectly, an odd ingredient couple that happens to be a match made in heaven. The dressing -- olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a touch of honey -- allows the ingredients to shine without overwhelming them. Note that this recipe has some flexibility -- I added some basil for a little bit of color and freshness, but if you wanted you could probably use fresh mint instead, if that's your thing. You could also substitute another kind of lettuce for the arugula, if you wanted. I wouldn't recommend leaving out the red onions, however -- lots of people aren't fans of onions when they're raw, me included usually, but I found that they added a little bite to the salad and contrasted with the sweetness of the watermelon very nicely.
Apart from being super tasty and quick to make, this salad is also fairly healthy, and perfect for summer when watermelon is at its best (here in Rome it is sold on every street corner this time of year). Enjoy everyone!
3 cup watermelon, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cup feta cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
8 slices red onion, thinly sliced
1 bag of baby arugula
Basil to garnish
For the vinaigrette:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
Whisk together all of the ingredients for your vinaigrette in a small bowl and set aside.
Combine the watermelon, feta, and onion in a large bowl. Distribute the arugula onto 4 plates. Top the arugula with the watermelon, feta cheese, and red onion mixture, and sprinkle with basil. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar and olive oil over the salads, and serve immediately. Serves 4.