Today’s post is (juuuuuuust under the wire here in California) born on the Fourth of July. It is acceptable (and some might say it is our duty) to be ambivalent about who we are, where we’ve come from, and where we are going, but it is unacceptable to be ambivalent about picnics. So today, my poet friends and I had a wonderful, old fashioned American cookout with all the brats, hotdogs, tofurky dogs, pasta salad and potato chips you could want.
A picnic requires a handful of things to be successful, in my opinion, and chief among those is watermelon.
Watermelon is the quintessential summer food. It’s cool. It’s sweet. It’s fresh grown. It dribbles delightfully all over the place when you eat it. It lends itself gracefully to games involving spitting. What’s not to love? The problem with being me, however, is that I sort of feel like I can’t show up to a gathering with just some watermelon. That’s no fun. But alas, watermelon is not an incredibly versatile fruit, and besides, I wanted to retain the essential watermelonyness (That’s a new word. I made it up.) Luckily, I remembered that melon pairs remarkably well with cucumber. I found this recipe and not only was it crazy simple, but it was fresh, cool, surprisingly complex flavor-wise, and really pretty. I highly recommend it for your future picnic needs
Cucumber Watermelon Salad with Feta and Mint
2 Medium Cucumbers
3 oz Feta Cheese, crumbled
10 (or so) Mint Leaves
This is another crazy simple recipe, so I’ll keep it brief. The recipe suggested making fairly regular sized squarish chunks of the feta (which they want you to get in block form), watermelon, and cucumber, but you guys, that’s hard. Cucumbers are a sort of weird shape to get in good chunks and watermelon makes a gigantic mess when you cut it. So I say let go of a desire for uniformity and let the chunk sizes fall where they may.
The watermelon is the most labor intensive part of this recipe, and it’s really fairly simple. Cut your melon in half, and then, using a spoon, scoop out chunks of melon.
It’s really that simple. If you have a melon baller, this would be a great time to use it. Also, if you have an ice cream scoop, you can get some really lovely roundish chunks with that. But if you have neither, a spoon is totally acceptable, and it’ll get you fairly nice, if sort of flattish, hunks of melon. The other upside is that by scooping the melon out of the husk like that, you mostly contain the juicy, sticky, messy bits.
I ended up using half of the melon, because we weren’t having a huge picnic and my bowl was only so big. I would suggest scooping out the second half and saving those pieces in a tupperware container in the fridge for later eating. Storing half a watermelon is a pain and also I find watermelon is one of those things that goes uneaten if it’s just sitting there being big and intimidating.
Next, you want to peel and slice your cucumbers. You can really do this however you like, but I cut my cucumbers in half lengthwise, and then into fairly thick slices. You want a size that will hold its own among the melon chunks.
The next part is really easy. Open up a 3.5 oz container of crumbled feta. Dump it on top of your cucumber/melon mixture. I ended up using about 3 oz worth, but really, do it according to your own taste.
Give everything a solid stir to distribute the ingredients evenly. The last touch is the mint. You want to chiffonade the mint leaves, mix in about half, and sprinkle the rest on top to serve as a garnish. Again, I used about ten, but feel free to adjust that number to your own mint preference. To chiffonade an herb, just (gently!) roll a few leaves together into a little log shape, and then very thinly slice it up! I’m not great at it, by any means, but practice definitely helps.
That’s it! No dressing or seasoning required. The juiciness of the watermelon really covers that, and I felt like the feta added plenty of salty goodness. If you find it a little bland, feel free to add a little salt and pepper. But it’s a really simple, sweet, lovely salad (and impressive looking for how easy it is!)
Independence Day Bonus!!!!
In celebration of America’s 236th birthday, I totally did my nails all flag like! I’m not a hugely gifted manicurist, but I did manage to do white with sparkly red and a blue accent nail with silver glitter.
Independence Day DOUBLE BONUS!!!!!!
The title of this post comes from the poem “America” by Allen Ginsberg. It is one of my favorite poems ever. It’s definitely worth your time to check it out.