I can still remember the days when the idea of pairing salty and sweet would have seemed like a real tragedy. Why would you ruin a perfectly good dessert by adding salt to it? I recall my utter bafflement at the idea that dessert + coffee were meant to be enjoyed at the same time, wondering why anyone in their right mind would want to showcase and even enhance the bitterness of coffee by pairing it with such an opposing (and vastly superior) flavour. Then again, my idea of the perfect coffee was nothing more than sugar milk with a faint coffee aftertaste.
My palate was, how shall we say it, rather more delicate in those days. I hated anything spicy, or bitter, or briny. There was sweet and there was not-sweet, and everything else was an offence against my tongue.
It’s strange to think how far I’ve come. These days, the stronger the flavour the happier I am. Olives, sundried tomatoes, capers, aged and stinking old cheeses… these are the flavours I live for. I have heard that this happens as we age, that our taste-buds slowly die off, leaving us with only about a third the amount of flavour receptors with which to work. No wonder I used to consider pizza sauce “too spicy.” I simply had too many tastebuds to work with!
This salad, accordingly, is a celebration of flavour. It is sweet and juicy, salty and savoury. It is truly unexpected, and I guarantee it will leave a lasting impression.
The saltiness of the watermelon and the brine of the olives paired against the sweetness of the watermelon and freshness of the mint, all drizzled in a simple dressing that really serves to complete the dish and balance these competing flavours, is something you will have to try for yourself. And it takes two minutes to pull together.
One caveat: Do not make this salad ahead of time! Once you cut the watermelon the juices will start to drain, and after it’s been sitting for a while you will have a very watery salad indeed. Instead, prepare your dressing and chop the onions/olives/mint in advance if you need to save time, and then cut the watermelon and dress it right before serving.
All of the measurements below are an approximation. You’ll know how much cheese looks like enough and how predominant you want the olives to be. Play around with the proportions until you find what works best for you. I tend to like lots of mint and lots of cheese here.
Watermelon + Feta Salad with Kalamata Olives and Fresh Mint (serves 4)
~ gluten free, vegetarian, soy free, nut free, no added sugar ~
- 1 mini watermelon, cubed
- 1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
- 10 kalamata olives, pits removed
- 1/2 cup organic feta cheese (I used goat’s feta)
- 1/4 cup good quality, cold-pressed olive oil
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- sea salt and black pepper
- In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and balsamic and then season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, gently toss together the watermelon chunks, onion, mint, and olives. Crumble the feta cheese over top.
- Just before serving, drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and gently toss again.
- Serve immediately.