I am not at all opposed to themed food. Last year's Valentine's column was a traditional Coeur à la Crème, a heart of sweet cream surrounded in a sweet strawberry sauce. This year, my Cupid's arrow is watermelon salad with baby arugula, honey-balsamic syrup, and torched goat cheese—something pink, which may lead down the road to something blue if you play this Sunday night right.
The key to romance is to share a meal, but to not eat anything too filling—or too smelly (hence a salad, with no onions, no garlic). This salad is composed of planks of sweet pink watermelon, with baby arugula tucked gently in between the Napoleon layers, drizzled with a balsamic reduction sweetened with honey, and then topped with olive oil, fleur de sel, black pepper, and goat cheese, which you then set aflame with a kitchen torch until it boils and bubbles and turns soft and charred. It's magnificent—plus I just used the words "pink," "baby," "honey," and "aflame" all in one sentence to describe it. How much more romantic can you get?
This salad is unusual, overly easy, and impressive. Once your Valentine sees you wielding a kitchen torch with finesse at the table, I assure you you won't be at the table for long. I would serve it with a glass of rosé champagne, and some baguette, and maybe a petit pot au chocolat for dessert, but then forget about the food and the dishes, which the great French romantic Pepe le Pew termed the "preliminaries," and spend the rest of the night engaged in more enticing pursuits.
- 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/8 large watermelon, cut into 6 1-inch planks
- 2 cups baby arugula
- 4 ounces chèvre
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Black pepper
- Fleur de sel
Make a balsamic syrup by pouring the vinegar and honey into a small saucepan and simmering over medium heat just long enough for it to reduce and have a thick, running consistency—about 5 minutes. Set aside, as it will thicken further as it cools.
Assemble each salad on its plate. First some arugula, then a slice of watermelon, then some arugula, another slice of watermelon, argula, then watermelon again. Crumble the chèvre over the watermelon, and season with cracked black pepper and fleur de sel. Drizzle with olive oil.
Using a crème brulée torch, melt and brown the chèvre quickly over the watermelon. Drizzle with balsamic syrup, and serve.