Summertime has always been my favorite season. The long hot days fade into cool nights that beckon you to sit under the stars and relish in the relief of the fresh evening air. When I married into a Greek family the summer nights I love so much now consisted of gathering around an outdoor table to enjoy each others company while snacking on fresh fruit and cheese. Watermelon and feta became my favorite combination. Crisp, sweet watermelon contrasted with briny, creamy feta made for the perfect flavor marriage that was the inspiration for this watermelon feta salad.
Another ingredient that makes this salad so special is purslane, known as glystrida (glee-strEE-tha) in Greek. It is a typical garden weed that is unsuspectingly delicious and nutritious. It can be found growing during the summer and it is loaded with vitamin E and an essential omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Our favorite way to enjoy purslane is in this watermelon feta salad. Its bright flavor and crisp texture is the perfect compliment to the sweetness of the watermelon and the creaminess of the feta. If you don’t have purslane growing in your yard, you may be able to find it at the farmer’s market or you can even purchase seeds online. Once you plant purslane, you will always have it, as it self sows and returns every year all on its own.
Picking the perfect watermelon seems to be quite elusive. I can remember watching my grandma thumping the underbellies of watermelons at the grocery store, listening for just the right dull sound. The three things I have learned to look for when picking out a ripe watermelon are: for the watermelon to feel heavy for its size, the spot where it rested on the ground to be a creamy yellow color and the for the stem end to look like a crater so you know it fell off the vine when it was ripe.
The greatest lesson I have learned from the Greek way of cooking is that the quality of the ingredients makes the simplest of meals taste absolutely incredible. The best feta is made with a combination of sheep & goat’s milk. The butterfat content of sheep’s milk makes for a smooth and creamy feta, because feta should never be dry – and goat’s milk gives feta its distinct flavor. Most feta available in stores is not very authentic, so two brands that we absolutely love are Mt.Vikos and Pastures of Eden. High quality extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, thinly sliced red onion and a sprinkling of fresh mint are all you need to complete this summer salad that is as refreshing as it is delicious.
Truly there is no better time to enjoy food than when it is fresh and in season and this watermelon feta salad is the ultimate coming together of ingredients that represent the best of summer. So gather around with people you love under the night sky and invite this salad along for the occasion, you will be glad you did.
- 2lb mini watermelon or 1/2 of 4lb watermelon, sliced into bite sized pieces
- 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
- 2 cups purslane
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- thinly sliced red onion, to taste
- fresh mint, to taste
- Place watermelon on your serving dish
- In a small bowl, whisk olive oil & vinegar until well combined - drizzle dressing over the watermelon
- Add crumbled feta, purslane, red onion & mint (to taste) to the top of the salad
- Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator until ready to serve
*recipe can be made ahead & stores well in the refrigerator - making it great for picnics or parties
*this recipe serves 2, but can be easily doubled & increased for a crowd