by way of In Style magazine, June 2009, p. 222.
Just as I learned in Italy to eat pizza with a fork, so, too, I learned to eat watermelon with a fork in Greece. Years ago, one of the highlights of visiting in-laws in northern Greece was the sweet, thirst-quenching karpouzi, or watermelon, that we found in the markets. Eating it with a fork makes it even more enjoyable. In the same period, I learned to pair watermelon with a slab of feta cheese. The sweeter the watermelon, the sharper and brinier the feta. I get nostalgic just remembering the hot weather and a white ceramic plate with a piece of red melon and white cheese.
In a recent issue of In Style, which I encountered at the hair salon, I came across this recipe, concocted, so the one-page feature indicated, by Hugh Acheson of the Five & Ten in Athens, Ga. How appropriate. Never been there, but the chef came up with an interesting combination of flavors. Now that I’ve made this once, I’m convinced that it’s a good combination — provided you know your ingredients well. For instance, next time I won’t use the creamy French feta I buy at the co-op. I’ll try another, sharper tasting one. And the watermelon really has to be sweet and the arugula young and not bitter. I would increase the amount of lime, although I approve of the bright blast supplied by the champagne vinegar. The thyme — I might leave it out.
Here’s how it appears in the magazine:
1 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 small shallot, minced
1 serrano chile, stemmed and sliced into small half rounds
salt to taste
1 small seedless watermelon
1/3 lb wedge feta cheese, sliced 1/8″ thick (about 12 slices)
1 bunch arugula
Sliced serrano chile for garnish
1. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine olive oil, lime juice, vinegar, thyme, shallot and serrano chile. Shake well. Season with salt to taste; chill in refrigerator.
2. Remove rind from watermelon and slice flesh into 3″ squares.
3. To assemble salad, layer one piece of watermelon on one piece feta. Repeat. Drizzle with vinaigrette and garnish with arugula and sliced serrano chile.