At first glance this combination sounds a bit odd. Sweet watermelon with a salty cheese? The swelling popularity of “salted caramel” this and that should be enough to convince anyone that it’s a well-liked flavor pairing. This has been a popular recipe when I’ve used it in my cooking classes. The oddity of the ingredients catches guests attention but it’s the flavor that hooks them!
It’s the opposite nature of the two that makes them work. In my Flavor Dynamics class we explore how flavor is perceived in the mouth and how the broader array of flavor profiles present in a recipe, the more flavorful the dish will be. Activating all areas of the palate (sweet, sour, bitter, salty, umami) will create a broader array of sensations. If you disect the flavor profiles of this dish you’ll see we have:
Sweet: Watermelon (Sometimes I also add strawberries), Sugar, Mint, Basil
Sour: Lime Juice
Salty: Feta Cheese, Salt, Kalamata Olives (optional)
Bitter: Lime Juice, Cilantro, Black Pepper
Keep this recipe in mind for those times when you a need a quick throw-together item. It’s particularly great for a get together when you don’t have time to assemble or prepare in advance. You can easily stop by the store and pick up the ingredients to assemble at the host’s site in a matter of minutes. The bright fresh flavors are perfect for summer appetites. In the photograph below I opted to use red & yellow watermelon and omit the strawberries. As I look at the photograph now the yellow watermelon actually looks like pineapple which I think would also be delicious with its sweet/acidic flavors.
Watermelon and Feta Salad
An unlikely pairing, the sweetness of the watermelon contrasts pleasantly with the salty feta cheese and refreshing flavor of the lime & mint dressing. This salad can be prepared even quicker if you purchase the pre-cut deli containers of watermelon that is often found in supermarket produce sections.
Yield: Approx. 8 servings
4 cups 1-inch diced seedless watermelon
1 pint strawberries, hulled and cut into quarters or bite-sized pieces
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon finely chopped basil
4 tablespoons olive oil
Arrange the melon cubes and strawberries on a serving dish. Roughly crumble the feta cheese over the melon.
Mix together the lime juice, sugar, and kosher salt, black pepper. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Add the chopped herbs and stir to blend in. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while vigorously whisking the dressing to emulsify. Drizzle dressing over the salad.
Variation: Add sliced radishes, pomegranate seeds or kalamata olives to the salad.[/print_this]