Certain ingredients perfectly embody a taste. Lemons are tart. Radicchio is bitter. And watermelon is sweet. Ken Oringer, chef of acclaimed Boston restaurant Clio, makes the argument that to eat watermelon on its own is to shortchange it. "As sweet as it is, you can get more dimensions out of watermelon by pairing it with opposing flavors," he says. "It actually makes it more refreshing that way."
By applying one of the most fundamental principles of good cooking—flavor balance—to this preparation, Oringer both highlights and seamlessly integrates watermelon into a knockout summer salad. "I love playing with salty-sweet-tangy combinations," he says. Here pickled cucumbers and a sherry vinaigrette bring tang, while feta cheese and olives deliver salty brine. Topped off by bright, fresh herbs, the fully dressed watermelon gets its due. Try Oringer's original version of the salad this month at Clio in Boston's Back Bay.
Watermelon Salad with Feta and Cucumber PicklesHands-on: 25 min. Total: 8 hr. 55 min.
Sumac—available at spice stores—adds a subtle piney, tangy note, but don't worry if you can't find it: The salad will still have loads of flavor complexity without it. You could also sub 1 teaspoon of prepared horseradish for the wasabi powder.
1 cup sugar1 cup cider vinegar½ cup water1 teaspoon kosher salt2 teaspoons mustard seeds1½ teaspoons wasabi powder3 tarragon sprigs1 English cucumber, thinly sliced3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil2 tablespoons sherry or white wine vinegar½ teaspoon ground sumac (optional)8 cups cubed red watermelon3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about ¾ cup)½ cup chopped fresh mint¼ cup sliced pitted kalamata olives¼ cup chopped fresh dill
1. Combine first 7 ingredients in a medium saucepan over high heat; bring to a boil. Remove pan from heat; cool completely. Place cucumber slices in a large bowl; pour vinegar mixture over cucumbers. Cover and chill cucumber and vinegar mixture 8 hours or overnight.
2. Combine oil, vinegar, and sumac, if desired, in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Strain cucumbers; discard liquid and tarragon sprigs. Place about 2 tablespoons cucumbers on each of 8 plates. Place 1 cup watermelon cubes on each plate. Top watermelon evenly with cheese, mint, olives, and dill. Drizzle evenly with vinaigrette.
SERVES 8CALORIES 162; FAT 8.1g (sat 2.3g, mono 4.5g, poly 0.6g); PROTEIN 3g; CARB 24g; FIBER 2g; CHOL 9mg; IRON 1mg; SODIUM 268mg; CALC 83mg