Cucumber & watermelon ginaigrette salad from The Joy of Better Cooking
This recipe is a study in how to build a salad, using a variety of shapes to create texture (see Skills spotlight), a tonal palette of complementary pinks, greens and deep purples to please the eye, and salty–sweet flavours that make every bite a blast. It’s also easily doubled if feeding a crowd; the only thing you don’t have to double is the pickling liquid quantity. I love sidling this salad along as a bring-a-plate, because it’s sure to get people chatting, and I’ll pack the giniagrette separately in a little jar for tossing through when we’re all set to serve. If you get there and see a few Greek-ish-looking salads already, you can always leave the watermelon separate and serve it as a welcome treat before dessert. No-one ever says no to watermelon.PRINT
- 1 bunch of radishes trimmed and thinly sliced
- ½ medium-sized watermelon (about 3 cups flesh) cubed or scooped with a melon baller
- 1 lemon
- 1 small red onion thinly sliced
- 2 Lebanese (short) cucumbers thinly sliced
- 100 g 3½ oz kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
- a pinch of chilli flakes optional
- 100 g (3½ oz) mild creamy feta
- good-quality olive oil for drizzling
- 5 mint sprigs leaves picked, stalks reserved
- 3 dill sprigs fronds picked, stalks reserved
- 3 parsley sprigs leaves picked, stalks reserved
- 50 ml (1½ fl oz) white wine vinegar
- 50 ml (1½ fl oz) gin
- ⅓ cup (75 g) sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- Plunge the radishes into a bowl of cold water, to refresh and crisp.
- Scoop the watermelon with a melon baller (retro!), or cut into wedges, slicing the flesh off the rind, then chop into fork-sized chunks. Pop these in the fridge while you make the rest of your salad.
- Zest the lemon, reserving the zest. Segment the flesh by slicing off the skin and pith, and cutting into each segment at a 45-degree angle to form wedges. Keep the remaining carcass of the citrus to squeeze over the salad. (You’ll find more info on segmenting citrus on page 41.)
- To make the ginaigrette, place the mint, dill and parsley stalks in a small saucepan with the vinegar, gin, sugar, salt and 50 ml (1½ fl oz) water. Bring to the boil, cooking for 4–5 minutes, until the booze stops stinging your eyeballs and the liquid reduces a little.
- Pop the onion slices in a jar, strain the ginaigrette over them and leave to pickle for at least 15 minutes. There’s no need to pop a lid on top, unless you’re planning on taking this with you for drizzling at a party.
- To serve, drain and thoroughly dry the radish wedges. Assemble the cucumber, watermelon and radish in a serving bowl. Add most of the reserved herb fronds from the ginaigrette, together with the olives, lemon segments and chilli flakes, if using. Crumble or cube the feta into fork-sized chunks and scatter over the top. Toss gently to combine, so the feta doesn’t start collapsing.
- Garnish with the remaining herbs and pickled onion. Drizzle with a few tablespoons of the pickling liquid and olive oil, then crack over some black pepper to finish.
Tips Keep the watermelon separate if making this ahead. Watermelon will turn all salads — whether leafy or fruity — to mush. To make this party last a little longer, try using honeydew melon instead, as it will keep its shape better, but won’t be quite as sweet. Subs If you’re not much of a drinker, buy a baby bottle of booze. Instead of gin, vodka will hit the spot, or even ouzo if you want to be true to the salad’s Greek roots, adding a delightful anise note to the dressing. You can also just hold the booze and make the pickling liquid with an extra 50 ml (1½ fl oz) white wine vinegar instead.