Related Watermelon Recipes:
Delight in the vibrant combination of sweet and tangy flavors with this refreshing watermelon salad, adorned with a tantalizing mustard greens vinaigrette.
The juicy cubes of chilled watermelon provide a burst of summertime sweetness, while the zesty and slightly peppery vinaigrette made with mustard greens adds a delightful twist that awakens the palate.
Paired with contrasting textures and a medley of fresh ingredients, this salad is a vibrant celebration of seasonal flavors that will leave you craving more with each refreshing bite.
This salad is what I consider a lazy salad. I basically wanted to make a salad featuring watermelon but didn’t want to use utensils nor chop up a bunch of vegetables. So, in the end, I just flipped things. The watermelon would be the star and the vessel for which to eat the salad.
There are certain ingredients that just set watermelon off - salt, olive oil, and lime. With these ingredients in mind, I was halfway there with my salad creation. Salt and lime juice enhance the flavor in pretty much anything it touches. I have my “vinaigrette” now just had to figure out the salad part.
Significance of Watermelon in the African Diaspora
The legacy of melon seeds in Africa traces back centuries and holds great cultural and culinary significance. Melon seeds, such as those from watermelons and other melon varieties, have long been utilized in African cuisine for their nutritional value, versatility, and symbolic meaning.
In many African cultures, melon seeds are considered a staple ingredient, used in a wide range of traditional dishes, including stews, soups, sauces, and snacks. Beyond their culinary applications, melon seeds also hold symbolic importance, representing fertility, abundance, and prosperity. They are often shared during celebrations, ceremonies, and communal gatherings, fostering a sense of unity and cultural identity.
The enduring legacy of melon seeds in Africa serves as a testament to the rich culinary heritage and interconnectedness of African communities, honoring the traditions and flavors that have been passed down through generations.
This significance extends across the diaspora particularly in the American South.
Watermelon holds a special place in soul food cooking, offering both culinary and cultural significance. In soul food, watermelon represents the essence of summer and is celebrated for its refreshing and hydrating qualities. It serves as a symbol of abundance, togetherness, and the joyous spirit of shared meals.
Watermelon's sweet, juicy flesh is incorporated into a variety of soul food dishes, from salads and beverages to desserts, adding a burst of natural sweetness and vibrant color.
Beyond its delicious taste, watermelon in soul food embodies the heritage, traditions, and community that are central to the soul food experience, making it an essential and cherished ingredient in this beloved culinary tradition.
Watermelon Salad Recipe Inspiration
Watermelon is a favorite and commonly eaten fruit in the summertime South. It has a rich and sometimes complex history along with much cultural significance throughout the South and especially black folks.
I wanted to make a simple 5 ingredient recipe that captured some of the unique culinary traditions of black folks but in a more modern way. So using classic soul food ingredient mustard greens in a vinaigrette seemed like a good idea to me for a refreshing combination during those hot summer days. And oh yea, it worked like a mug!!!
Ingredients Needed To Make Watermelon Salad
- Fresh Ripe Watermelon
- Mustard Greens
- Rice Wine Vinegar - You can the dressing more of a balsamic vinaigrette by swapping in balsamic vinegar inplace of the rice wine vinegar.
- Lime Juice
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Kosher Salt
- Black Pepper
- Optional ingredients - fresh mint, fresh basil, crumbled feta cheese
Elements of this Watermelon Salad
Rather than going all “salady” I decided to take the chimichurri or ceviche route. If you’re unfamiliar, chimichurri is an Argentinean condiment used often with grilled meats. It featured olive oil, fresh parsley, garlic, and chilis. I tweaked and simplified using only fresh cilantro, mustard greens, lime juice, and rice vinegar. Good mustard greens carry a spicy kick, which in a green way mimics the chilis used in a chimichurri sauce.
These few ingredients balance each other well. The sweetness of the watermelon checks the kick of the greens. The lime juice adds brightness, while the greens and cilantro provide that garden salad element. At the end of the day, you get da bomb wedges of watermelon with so little effort. I honestly feel guilty for posting this as a “recipe” when it’s literally just something I threw together to eat more watermelon.
How to Make Watermelon Salad (step by step)
Make the vinaigrette
In a large bowl mix together the chopped greens, cilantro, vinegar, lime juice, and spices. Slowly add the oilve oil while continuing to stir with a whisk or spoon.
Make the Salad
Slice the watermelon into half moons. Top each half-moon with spoonfuls of the vinaigrette. Alternatively, you can use cookie cutters to create watermelon shapes great for presentation.
What To Serve With Watermelon Salad
Watermelon salad pairs well with a variety of dishes. Here are some options for what to serve alongside watermelon salad:
- Grilled Proteins: Serve watermelon salad with grilled proteins such as chicken, shrimp, or steak. The juicy sweetness of the watermelon complements the savory flavors of grilled meats.
- Light Summer Entrees: Pair watermelon salad with light and refreshing summer dishes like grilled fish, seafood pasta, or quinoa salad. The vibrant flavors of the watermelon enhance the overall meal.
- Fresh Salads: Complement watermelon salad with other fresh salads. Consider options like a crisp green salad, cucumber and tomato salad, or a Mediterranean salad. The combination adds variety and texture to the meal.
- Cheese and Charcuterie: Create a delicious contrast by serving watermelon salad with a selection of cheeses and cured meats. The sweet and juicy watermelon pairs beautifully with salty cheeses like feta, goat cheese, or halloumi.
- Grains and Starches: Include grains or starches to make the meal more substantial. Serve watermelon salad with quinoa, couscous, or roasted potatoes. These additions provide a satisfying and balanced meal.
- Light Sandwiches or Wraps: Accompany watermelon salad with light sandwiches or wraps. Opt for options like grilled chicken or vegetable wraps, turkey and avocado sandwiches, or caprese sandwiches. The combination is perfect for a refreshing and satisfying lunch.
- Barbecue Fare: Watermelon salad complements classic barbecue dishes. Serve it alongside grilled burgers, hot dogs, or barbecue chicken. The cool and juicy watermelon adds a refreshing element to the smoky flavors of barbecue.
- Seafood: Pair watermelon salad with fresh seafood dishes such as grilled shrimp skewers, seared scallops, or pan-seared fish fillets. The sweetness of the watermelon complements the delicate flavors of seafood.
- Light Pasta Dishes: Serve watermelon salad with light pasta dishes like pasta primavera, lemon garlic pasta, or a pasta salad with fresh vegetables. The combination offers a satisfying and well-rounded meal.
Watermelon Salad Cooking Tips
- Choose Ripe Watermelon: Select a ripe and sweet watermelon for the best flavor. Look for a firm and symmetrical watermelon with a deep green color, a dull skin, and a creamy yellow spot on the bottom.
- Keep Ingredients Cold: Watermelon salad is best enjoyed when chilled. Keep the watermelon, other fruits or vegetables, and dressing ingredients refrigerated until you're ready to assemble the salad. This helps maintain their crispness and freshness.
- Seedless or Seeded Watermelon: You can use seedless watermelon for convenience, but if you prefer the flavor and texture of seeded watermelon, simply remove the seeds before adding it to the salad.
- Cut Just Before Serving: For the freshest taste and texture, cut the watermelon into cubes or chunks just before serving. This helps preserve its juiciness and prevents it from becoming soggy.
- Balance Sweet and Savory: Watermelon naturally offers sweetness, so consider balancing it with contrasting flavors. Add a hint of saltiness with feta cheese, a tangy note with lime or lemon juice, or a touch of freshness with mint leaves. This combination creates a harmonious blend of flavors.
- Customize with Additional Ingredients: Feel free to customize your watermelon salad with additional ingredients based on your preferences. Consider adding cucumber slices, red onion, arugula, or a sprinkle of chili powder for a hint of spice. Experiment with different flavors and textures to create your unique version.
- Dressing Just Before Serving: Dress the watermelon salad with the vinaigrette or dressing just before serving. This helps prevent the watermelon from releasing excess juice and keeps the other ingredients crisp and vibrant.
- Garnish for Visual Appeal: For an extra touch of presentation, garnish the watermelon salad with additional ingredients. Sprinkle some chopped herbs, crumbled cheese, or toasted nuts on top. This adds visual appeal and enhances the overall dining experience.
- Serve Chilled: Watermelon salad is most refreshing when served chilled. Keep the salad in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve, and use chilled plates or bowls for an extra cooling effect.
- It goes without saying, but choose a good watermelon
- Don’t shy away from spicy mustard greens. They’re perfect for pairing with watermelon.
- Slice the watermelon with rind attached so you can enjoy it properly, with your hands
- Don't sweat the small white seeds, but definitely pick out or spit out the larger black ones
- Save the rinds for use in a pickled relish
- For a more traditional salad - remove the rinds, chopped the melon into squares, add cucumbers, red onions and feta.
How To Pick The Best Watermelon
Just in case it wasn't obvious do note that watermelon season is summertime. To determine if a watermelon is ripe, look for these signs:
- Skin color and texture: The watermelon should have a deep green color and a dull, matte finish. Avoid shiny or overly glossy skin.
- Yellow spot: On the underside of the watermelon, there should be a creamy yellow spot. This spot is called the "ground spot" and indicates that the fruit has ripened while sitting on the ground.
- Tapping: Gently tap the watermelon with your palm. A ripe watermelon will produce a deep, hollow sound. If it sounds dull or flat, it may be underripe.
- Weight: Lift the watermelon and feel its weight. A ripe watermelon will feel heavy for its size.
- Shape and uniformity: Look for a watermelon that has a symmetrical shape. Irregularities or soft spots may indicate an overripe or spoiled fruit.
Frequently Asked Questions About Making Melon Salad
What are some common ingredients used in watermelon salad?
Watermelon salad typically includes fresh watermelon chunks or cubes as the main ingredient. Other common ingredients often include feta cheese, mint leaves, red onion, lime or lemon juice, olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
Watermelon cucumber salad is a thing so adding cucumber is a natural option.
I'm also fond of making a watermelon cucumber feta salad. The sweet and salty flavors from all the combined ingredients can be a wonderful thing.
Can I make watermelon salad ahead of time?
Yes, you can prepare watermelon salad ahead of time, but it's best to wait until closer to serving to combine all the ingredients. Watermelon tends to release juices, so it's recommended to add the dressing and delicate ingredients like mint leaves just before serving to maintain their freshness.
Can I customize the ingredients in watermelon salad?
Absolutely! Watermelon salad is versatile, and you can customize it based on your preferences. You can add ingredients like arugula, basil, sliced almonds, balsamic glaze, or even a hint of spice with jalapeno slices for a unique twist. Salty feta makes for a great watermelon feta salad.
Can watermelon salad be made in advance for a picnic or party?
While it's best to assemble the salad closer to the serving time, you can pre-cut the watermelon and prepare the other ingredients in advance. Keep them refrigerated separately, and combine them just before serving to retain their freshness.
Can watermelon salad be stored in the refrigerator?
Watermelon salad is best enjoyed fresh, but if you have leftovers, you can store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a day or two. However, the texture and flavors may change slightly due to the watermelon releasing juices.
Can watermelon salad be made without cheese for a vegan version?
Absolutely! If you prefer a vegan version or avoid dairy, you can skip the cheese or replace it with vegan alternatives like tofu feta or a crumbled plant-based cheese.
Are there any alternatives to mint leaves in watermelon salad?
If you're not a fan of mint or don't have it on hand, you can substitute it with fresh basil leaves or cilantro for a different herbal note.
Other summer salads ideas:
Make This Watermelon Salad Recipe
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- 1 small watermelon cut into wedges about an inch thick
- ¼ cup mustard greens chopped
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro
- 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 whole lime juiced
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon course ground black pepper
- Mix greens, cilantro, olive oil, vinegar and lime juice in a mixing bowl.
- Arrange the watermelon wedges on a large plate or platter. Top each wedge with oil mixture. Season with salt and pepper.