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.

Persian Cucumbers with Garlic and Soy Sauce

King of Noodles sits just steps from our apartment. The small, sort of subterranean hole in the wall on Irving at 18th Avenue serves some of the best food in the Sunset. Their lamb noodle soup haunts us. It is the thing that most draws us back again and again. That and an impressive list of hand-filled steamed dumplings (made across the street and delivered fresh throughout the day). More on that another day.

In addition to a number of tasty, hand-pulled noodle dishes, the restaurant offers a few fresh, raw vegetable starters, including this crushed Persian cucumber salad. We love it and think the garlic lovers among you will too!

Persian cucumbers are becoming increasingly available in our local markets. We typically get ours from Trader Joe’s, but our local fresh market at 22nd Avenue & Irving sells them too. That’s where these came from. Persian cucumbers have crisp, dense structures with tiny seeds that you don’t have to remove. They’re tender and not as bitter as garden variety cucumber seeds.

This is as simple a dish as you’ll find. You’ll want to eat this as soon after preparing it as possible to preserve the delicious contrast of cool fresh cucumber and salty soy. The cucumbers will get watery over time and lose their snap if left to sit in the dressing for too long.

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Persian Cucumbers in Garlic and Soy Sauce

4 Persian cucumbers
3 tablespoons soy sauce (we prefer low sodium varieties)
1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 large clove fresh chopped garlic

On a clean cutting board, trim the ends of the cucumbers and cut into inch-long segments.

Using a fork, the back of a spoon, or the side of a knife, gently crush the cucumber segments until they just split in half.

Place the crushed cucumber in a mixing bowl. Add soy sauce, sesame oil and chopped garlic to bowl and gently toss with cucumbers until they’re completely coated with the soy dressing.

Serve immediately.