Why It Works
- Sweet watermelon, salty feta, and mint are a classic pairing.
- Adding a good dose of chopped lemon zest enhances the aromatic flavors in the watermelon.
- Crumbling the feta over the top instead of tossing it together with the rest of the salad provides a more interesting finished texture and flavor.
Since the first time I was introduced to it, in 2005, watermelon and feta salad with mint has become a staple summertime dish at my place (and, no doubt, at many of your places as well), and I've learned a few things when adapting that recipe for home use. One: You can get rid of pretty much all of the extraneous ingredients. Two: The quality of the watermelon and, more critically, the feta is of utmost importance. And three: A little zest goes a long way.
- 3 pounds seedless watermelon (about 1 small or 1/4 large), rind removed, cut into 1-inch chunks (about 2 pounds/1kg chunks after rind is discarded)
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) juice from 1 lemon, plus 4 (2-inch) strips zest, removed with a sharp vegetable peeler
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1/4 cup (10g) roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
- Up to 4 ounces (1 quart) arugula leaves (optional; see note)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 ounces (110g) feta cheese (see note)
Place watermelon chunks in a large bowl. Finely chop lemon zest. Add lemon juice and half of zest to bowl with watermelon. Add oil, mint, and arugula (if using) and toss until watermelon is evenly dressed. Season lightly to taste with salt and pepper. (The cheese will add saltiness, so go light on the salt at this stage.)
Transfer salad to a wide, shallow bowl or a large plate and spread out evenly. Crumble feta over the top. Sprinkle with remaining lemon zest. Drizzle with more olive oil and a few grinds of black pepper. Serve immediately.
This dish greatly depends on the quality of the feta. If you have options at your supermarket, look for true Greek or Bulgarian sheep's-milk feta, which tends to be creamier and tangier than domestic cow's-milk versions. To make this salad a meal, feel free to add other chopped ingredients. Try some fresh arugula leaves or some cubed cucumbers, halved cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion, and a few small slivers of black olive. Or how about some thinly sliced chili peppers for heat? I really like a version I've made a few times with grilled (and chilled) corn, along with some cilantro chopped together with the mint.