Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Taste of Summer

I've always been the kind of person that craves. When I was young, if I really wanted a certain breakfast cereal, and we were all out, I didn't stop thinking about it until the next trip to the store. (Sorry Mom, that had to be annoying.) Sometimes a mouthful is really all I need; just a single taste of that one deeply wanted thing is enough. Chocolate is a perfect example. If I really want some chocolate, and I can't stop thinking about it, I can go to the pantry, pop 4 or 5 little chocolate chips in my mouth, and that's it. Craving satisfied, crisis averted. I plan a menu for the week based on what I think I might want, but it's flexible. If a craving hits, I try to satisfy it, within reason. Ignoring it has never really worked out, but for some reason, I still try. 
For a few weeks in July, I couldn't stop thinking about watermelon. Not just a chunk of watermelon though...I wanted watermelon with red onions, and some firm, salty cheese. With a tang of vinegar, maybe. I had no idea where this concept of flavors was coming from, and it seemed a little odd to me, so I attempted to ignore it...totally unsuccessfully. Every trip to the store, I lingered near the melons. I picked up red onions for quesadillas but couldn't put them in the basket without thinking of my salad. Finally, just before the end of the month, I realized that I had had a salad similar to my watermelon daydream at a restaurant here in Orlando...the restaurant we were planning on eating at that very week! I had had it just over a year before, and forgotten all about it until suddenly that mix came into my mind. Unfortunately for me, that salad was no longer on their often-changing seasonal menu, but it was compensated for by some of the best heirloom tomatoes I've ever had. 
Finally, I gave in, bought a little seedless watermelon, and made my salad. It was so light, summery, and refreshing that I made it again two days later for Hubband. And then I bought another watermelon and made it again yesterday for lunch. It's so simple that there isn't a real recipe, just a list of ingredients. 

Watermelon Salad
Inspired by the California Grill

Watermelon, seedless, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
Tender greens: I used mache, but try baby spinach or arugula too!
Firm, slightly salty cheese: I used ricotta salata, but feta would also be nice. 
Red onion: sliced as thinly as possible
Sherry vinegar

Toss the washed greens with the cubed watermelon, crumbled or shredded cheese, and onion in proportions that look appetizing to you. Use less onion if you like, or more cheese. Sprinkle the salad with a little bit of salt, then drizzle it with some sherry vinegar. Start with just a little, and add more until you get to your desired level of 'zing'. Some herbs would also be nice: try adding mint or parsley!

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