Greek Watermelon and Tomato Salad

Cool, sweet watermelon might just be the most exquisite thing on a hot summer afternoon. We all grew up with those cool wedges at summer outdoor gatherings – 4th of July picnics, family reunions, and camping trips. While we can find it nearly everywhere at just about any time of year these days, it is still best when it accompanies the rest of Summer’s garden staples.

This savory Greek salad of melon, tomato, cucumber, and feta takes advantage of two true summer stars. The fun combination of sweet and savory juices along with the crunchy texture of cucumber makes for a refreshing warm weather salad. Simply dressed, topped with crumbled salty feta cheese and embellished with chopped fresh herbs like tarragon, dill, basil or oregano.

We like to serve this take on a classic Greek salad on a bed of peppery watercress or arugula. The sharp greens add both taste and texture. We tend to prepare more than we can eat in a sitting, so we didn’t toss the greens with the melon and tomatoes. They wilt pretty quickly and we don’t like having to pick limp strings out of the leftovers. The watercress is particularly tender and likely to dissolve into the juices of the salad

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Watermelon and Watercress Salad

3 Persian cucumbers, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 small seedless watermelon, cut into 1/2′ pieces
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
A handful watercress or arugula
1 avocado, cut into 1/4″ pieces
4-6 ounces feta cheese, cubed
salt and pepper

optional: fresh herbs like, tarragon, parsley, cilantro, basil, or mint

Add the cucumbers to a bowl, and the tomatoes into another. Divide the vinegar and olive oil over each vegetable, add a little salt and pepper, and set aside to marinate for 20 minutes or so.

When ready to assemble the salad, mix the tomatoes, cucumbers and watermelon together. Taste and season with more vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. In a serving bowl, place the watercress or arugula in the bottom of the bowl, add the watermelon salad mixture with the accumulated juices. Top with avocado, feta cheese, and fresh herbs.

Avocado For Breakfast?

Bacon Avocados (yes, that's the real name of these beauties)

As a kid, avocado was a color; an ugly throwback to a time I couldn’t connect with and the sad dark color of the deep pile shag carpeting in my teenage home. Avocado wasn’t a food my parents ever contemplated and because Idaho isn’t the sort of place you’d expect to find an avocado tree (except, of course, on the kitchen window seal of the seed sprouting hobbyist), they were never on my mind.

When I finally discovered the creamy, nutty flavors of avocado, they were adulterated with mayo in what can only be described as a redneck, white-trash take on a Mexican classic. I fell in love instantly! The silken, herbaceous and delicate earthy flavors of avocado were to me at the time the sort of thing to be indulged with crunchy corn chips or as a cool base for crab or shrimp Louis salad. It was a lunch or dinner thing, in a nice café or in front of the boob tube or on a picnic.

Why not avocado in the morning? It is a big berry after all, and it pairs equally well with eggs and toast or any of the delightful winter citrus now in the market. The silky ripe avocado isn’t just for guacamole anymore. We’ve started eating the sexy, silky fruit with soft-boiled eggs, sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper and crunchy gray sea salt. With a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a slice of warm crunchy toast, the avo-ovo breakfast has become a favorite at our breakfast table.

Who needs cereal?

The perfect avocado will be soft but not mushy. Choosing a nice ripe avocado takes some practice. Regardless of the variety, the avocado’s skin shouldn’t be dented and beaten up looking. Avocados bruise as any other fruit and once the flesh has been knocked around, it will turn brown. A ripe avocado will still be somewhat firm to the touch but it’ll give a little under the careful pressure of a thumb. The avocados pictured at the top of the post are “bacon” avocados. According to the California Avocado Commission, there are approximately 500 varieties of avocado. California produces 7 varieties for commercial sale.

The perfect soft-boiled egg will be creamy and soft in the middle without falling apart into an under-cooked mess. The technique for cooking soft-boiled eggs is learnable and worth the care. The word “boiled” is a bit misleading because you never want to cook eggs at a rapid boil. Eggs need to sit in water that is just at the simmer point for the desired length of time. We heat water in a saucepan and gently lower the eggs into the hot water to better control for time. If you place the eggs into the pan while the water is still cold, you’ll have a much harder time gauging just how cooked they are. To prevent cold eggs from cracking as they hit the hot water, use a thumbtack or pin to puncture the “flat” end of the egg. This allows air to escape while the egg quickly expands inside the shell, relieving pressure and ensuring you don’t end up with egg-drop soup. For soft, creamy centers, large eggs should simmer for 7 minutes. Smaller eggs will require less time. I’d say probably 5-6 minutes. Every minute matters so experiment until you figure it out on your own stove.

To the naysayers who worry about the fat content of avocado, I say phooey. The fat in avocado is among the best kind for your health and it quells hunger leaving you feeling satisfied and well fed. Better to put down the bag of chips and eat all the avocado you want. Both your heart and your waistline will benefit.

Cheers, Steve