This is the year of Big Summer. Crazy hot temperatures hit central North Carolina in early June and let up on the last day of the month. Coupled with humidity, this is the kind of weather that renews my vow to move to the Pacific Northwest, the land of cool, green, and lush. I love Oregon. Everyone wears layers, paddles the Columbia River on weekends, and eats fabulous food from trucks stationed downtown. The pace seems slower (I know those people at Nike are getting a lot done, but walking around Portland feels better, easier, than the East Coast cities I've lived in). Life isn't sluggish or dull, but velocity is somehow altered.
Because someplace else is always better than where you are.
Today I'm enjoying a reprise — I woke to temperatures in the 60s and a cool breeze — but the crazy heat sped up the crop cycle (so says my CSA farmer). This week's produce box included 3 different melons, cherry tomatoes, and heirloom tomatoes. After splitting the share with my friend Cathy, I brought home the ultimate small watermelon, whose flesh was the best-est of all possible watermelons. Sweet, lush, and juicy. I also brought home a sun jewel melon, which resembles a fall delicata squash and has an amazing perfume. It radiates heat and summer and flowers.
Watermelon-Tomato-Feta Salad for dinner was a no-brainer, given my ingredients. If you haven't discovered this treasure, do try it. I don't remember exactly when I stumbled upon the glorious tomato-watermelon salad combination (it was sometime in the late 1990s, during my Boston years). I've enjoyed countless variations since then, but I'm happy with this version: ripe watermelon, gorgeous tomatoes, red onion, basil and/or mint, freshly crumbled feta cheese, a splash of vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil. Add kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and you've captured the best of summer.
I used cherry tomatoes in today's salad, but diced regular tomatoes would work just as well.
1 cup cherry and/or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered, depending on size
1 1/2 cups watermelon, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, seeds removed
3-4 tablespoons red onion, diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon mint, chopped
2 tablespoons basil, chopped
Combine the tomatoes, watermelon, and red onion in a large bowl. Sprinkle with kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper from the pepper mill and toss. Add red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and feta, then toss gently to combine. You can refrigerate the salad at this point for up to and hour. Add freshly chopped herbs just before serving.