Story last updated at 7/10/2013 - 2:32 pm
Earlier this spring I challenged Mother Nature to provide a much better summer than last year. She apparently got the memo and we in Juneau enjoyed several weeks of dry, sunny weather. More often than not, locals were proclaiming it was too hot. I bit my tongue and relished in the warmth of a perfect summer day. Oh how I missed those!
With these sunny days came the desire to eat summer food. Last year, I ate and cooked a lot of winter food. Soups, stews, and roasts were my primary meals; anything to keep warm. Summer weather demands lighter fare so that we have the energy to get outside and enjoy the day. Well, not me specifically getting outside, but I have lots of friends who enjoy outside activities. And I encourage each and every one of them. I’m still in the learning stages. Basically, standing in the threshold of my home and admiring the view on the other side. Lovely. Simply lovely.
My contribution to these outdoor adventures is to prepare light and portable meals and snacks. Nothing speaks summer to me more than watermelon. It is by far my most favorite fruit and I can eat my weight in it. I have won watermelon eating contests and in my youth, watermelon seed spitting contests. When I was expecting my first daughter, I craved watermelon. My husband and I bought a 15 pounder one day and after it was nice and chilled, I sliced it down the middle (long ways), got a spoon and dug in. I ate the entire half in about 30 minutes. I turned to the husband, who was sleeping on the couch and softly asked “Are you going to eat the other half?” His lack of response indicated to me that no, he was not so that meant it was available for me to eat. So I did; all of it.
Watermelons aren’t as plentiful in Alaska as they were in rural Georgia, where I grew up, but they’re just as sweet and juicy. Now rather than buying a whole watermelon, I tend to buy the containers of cut up pieces so that I can eat them promptly. A little salt, a spoon and I’m ready to go.
This fruit is perfect in its simplicity. However, I longed to create a salad or side dish with it. Many of the salad recipes I perused included feta cheese, which I like, but I don’t love. I wanted the watermelon to be the star of the salad. Keep it simple.
My favorite herb is fresh basil. Would that pair well with the melon? Yes, yes it did! The fresh, spring-like herb was a perfect match with the summery watermelon. Add a simple citrus dressing and presto! You have a delicious summer side dish that goes perfectly with any picnic or other outdoor activity.
This week, I present a recipe that is the essence of summer: Watermelon Salad.
Until next time…
Eat and enjoy,
4 cups watermelon, cubed and seeded
2 cups seedless grapes, halved
1 cup fresh basil, cut into ribbons
Zest of 2 oranges
Juice of 2 oranges
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
In large bowl, combine watermelon, grapes and basil. In small bowl, combine zest of oranges and lemons as well as juice of both. Whisk in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Pour over fruit and toss to coat well. Best served chilled, but can be at room temperature.