This Watermelon Salad is the essence of summer on a platter! It’s super fresh, sweet, salty, tangy and crunchy, all at the same time. The fresh herbs and Asian-inspired dressing create a delicious burst of fabulous flavor.
It’s funny how you forget about certain dishes when the ingredients are not in season. Like watermelon salad… which I’ve always enjoyed, but had forgotten just how fresh and fabulous this vibrantly-hued seasonal salad can be. Both my sister and sister-in-law served delicious watermelon salads while we were in Phoenix this past week and I was reminded how much I love this type of summery side dish.
So I returned home with “watermelon salad” on the brain and thought it would be fun to come up with a slightly different rendition. I decided to go with an Asian-inspired twist and created a simple honey-balsamic-soy dressing paired with quick-pickled red onions in rice vinegar and lots of fresh mint, basil and cilantro (the Asian trinity of herbs). My salad also includes greens (I used a packaged “power” mix of pea shoots, baby spinach and watercress), a sprinkle of Feta cheese (not Asian, but a classic component of watermelon salad) and a handful of crunchy, buttery, salted slivered almonds.
This salad is delicious with grilled entrees, sandwiches, wraps, even pizza. I like to prep the individual components (dressing, watermelon, almonds, pickled red onions) in advance, then put it all together just before serving.
The dressing is super easy; simply combine soy sauce, honey and balsamic vinegar in a small sauté pan and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a steady simmer and let it reduce until sweet, tangy and syrupy, a perfect pairing with the juicy watermelon, salty Feta and the bright, fresh, brilliantly-hued onions.
This is a perfect dish for a summer picnic, party or get-together as it makes a beautiful presentation and seems to be enjoyed by young and old, alike! Just bring the components in separate zippered bags or storage containers and put the salad together right before serving.
How to pick a good watermelon
Of course, watermelon salad is only as good as the ingredients used to make it. Here are a few tips from AllRecipes to determine a sweet, juicy watermelon:
- Look for a yellow patch. Watermelon plants grow on vines that run along the ground, developing a light-colored patch on their undersides where the sun doesn’t reach. Pick up a watermelon and look for that patch which is sometimes called “a field spot”. Look for a cream color (vs white), which indicates the melon was ripe when it was picked. If it’s white or green, it was picked too soon and won’t be perfectly ripe (watermelons don’t ripen after they’re picked).
- Choose a heavy melon in comparison to others. A ripe watermelon will feel heavier than you expect when you lift it. That weight is due to the high water content — up to 92 percent. As watermelons age, they actually lose water weight and will become dry and mealy.
- Look at the skin. The color of the watermelon doesn’t indicate how ripe it is since watermelons come in a variety of colors and color patterns. Look for one with fairly smooth skin although a little bit of gnarliness is okay. There shouldn’t be cracks, bruises, or mushy spots however and the overall surface should be matte instead of shiny (too shiny means it’s not ripe).
- Give it the “knock test”. Many people swear that a ripe watermelon will sound hollow when you tap it. If it’s mushy inside, the sound will be muted.
Add this recipe to your must-make summer recipe list!
Just a little heads-up; this watermelon salad is deliciously addicting! Once you try it, you’ll be wanting to make it again and again. It’s bright, fresh, flavorful and oh-so-summery-delicious!
Café Tips for making this Asian Watermelon Salad
- This watermelon salad recipe calls for finely grated fresh ginger. I keep a tube of Ginger Paste in my refrigerator. If a recipe calls for ginger, I always have it on hand. If you don’t use ginger frequently, these tubes can also be stored the freezer. When you need freshly grated ginger, just let it thaw for 10-15 minutes, squeeze out what you need and return the tube to the freezer. Ginger Paste can be found in many larger grocery stores in the produce section. In my area of the country, I find it at Publix, Harris Teeter and Super Walmart.
- This recipe calls for mint, basil and cilantro leaves which comprise the classic Asian herb blend. If you don’t have all of these herbs (or don’t like all of them), no worries! The salad will still be delicious with just one, two, or all of these herbs.
- If your herb leaves are large, tear them up before adding them to the salad.
- If you find you have watermelon left over, try this Watermelon Mint Lemonade. It’s so refreshing, summery and delicious!
Thought for the day:
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- ½ medium-size red onion
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
- ¼ cup slivered almonds
- 1 teaspoon butter
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 4-6 ounces greens arugula, baby spinach, pea shoots, watercress, etc., whatever looks prettiest and freshest
- 1 cup fresh herb leaves basil, mint and/or cilantro
- 2 cups cubed watermelon
- ½ cup crumbled Feta cheese
30-45 minutes before serving time, combine the red onion, rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small storage container with a tight-fitting lid. Shake the container 3-4 times before serving to keep the onions coated with the rice vinegar mixture.
- Combine soy sauce, vinegar, honey and ginger in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 5-7 minutes or until sauce is reduced to a thick syrupy consistency.
- Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat. Melt the 1 teaspoon of butter then add the almonds and cook, stirring frequently, until light golden brown. Add the salt and stir to combine. Turn the almonds out to cool on a plate or pan lined with several thickness of paper towels.
Line a large platter with the greens and approximately ¾ of the fresh herb leaves, mounding the greens up a bit in the center.
Scatter the watermelon, pickled red onions, Feta cheese and remaining herbs over the greens. Drizzle some of the dressing lightly over the salad and top with the almonds. Seve extra dressing at the table. Enjoy!
See Café Tips above in the post for more detailed instructions and helpful tips.
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