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Summer Ease | Watermelon & Feta Salad

Watermelon & Feta Salad | Delightful CrumbIt is summer, which means it’s time for another simple salad! This is basically how I cook from June through September—it’s hot, the produce is perfect and the evenings are long. Why spend the night cooking when you can assemble something equally delicious in minutes? Our trip to Paris in June didn’t help this inclination. Rather than coming home eager to replicate floating islands, croissants and picture-perfect tarts, I returned with a renewed enthusiasm for buying good baguettes and fancy cheese, which frankly constitute a proper enough meal alone, and all the more so with an easy salad alongside.

The watermelon-and-feta combination is classic and well loved by many, but it’s worth calling attention to it again nonetheless. I was reminded recently that not everyone is making this at home all summer long, as is my tendency. I did some Googling, wondering when it became a ubiquitous pairing well beyond the borders of Greece, and via this Serious Eats article, I ended up on Google Trends, where I found quite a fascinating picture of American interest in the combination. It began a steady climb in 2009, hitting its current and peak popularity in 2013 or so. I can’t recall when I first encountered it myself, or when it went from curiosity to summer staple—but here we are.

Last week, we were with family in Northern Michigan (photos below—look how lovely!), and as always, I was reminded how nice it is to have trusty combinations up my sleeve when I’m traveling, especially when I’m coming from far away but still want to contribute to the family feast. We were staying in a very cute little inn that lacked only in its kitchen provisions, but even without a big cutting board, sharp knife or measuring spoons, this was a breeze. It pleases most people and will pair wonderfully with whatever else is cooking on a hot summer day.

And if this is already a classic in your kitchen and you need some new inspiration, I outlined my favorite composed summer salads last year. Do you have a favorite I didn’t include? I’d love to hear it.

We’re home now, summer vacations behind us and plenty of mail and work stacked up, demanding my attention. Life is complex, even in summer, even on vacation, even when things are good. Ease so often feels out of reach for me, but this sort of cooking offers a small measure, and that is something. Maybe I’ll try my hand with îles flottantes this winter, but for now, you will find me piling my market bounty on a platter and serving it with a baguette for sopping up the juices. Simple pleasures, the glory of summer, a little bit of ease—I hope you’re finding it, too.

Watermelon & Feta Salad

Shallot or red onion (optional)

One small or half of a medium watermelon, red or yellow

Good olive oil

Balsamic, white balsamic or white wine vinegar

Block of Feta cheese, preferably goat, sheep or a combination

Sprouts (sunflower pictured), mint and/or basil

Flaky sea salt

Cracked black pepper

If using the shallot or red onion, slice it thinly and place it in a bowl with a pour of neutral vinegar (white wine or white balsamic work well) and a big pinch of salt. Mix, then let the combination sit to mellow the onion’s bite while you prepare the rest of the salad.

Slice the watermelon into pieces about 3/4-inch thick, remove the rind and cut the slices into large chunks. If the kiddos will be eating it, too, cut the watermelon into cubes to make things simpler. Pile the watermelon on a big plate or platter.

Drizzle generously with olive oil and a splash of vinegar. Crumble the cheese on top, and arrange the sprouts and/or herbs over that. Taste to check the flavors and saltiness, then adjust to taste and finish with a sprinkle of flaky salt and cracked black pepper.

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