Spicy Watermelon Salata

Not quite my mother’s watermelon salad….

What could be more American than a slice of cold watermelon on the Fourth of July, fireworks booming and the smell of char from an open flame floating over on a cherished breeze? While traditions are comforting and irresistable, they can also be a snore, so lately I enjoy my watermelon another way. Based on an Italian recipe my mother loves with watermelon and firm Ricotta Salata cheese, my version entices for its unexpected flavors: the sweet tang of reduced balsamic, the aromatics of basil (or mint or nepitella); the heat of ┬áthe pequin peppers balanced by the watery cool of the melon; the creaminess of the pine nuts and olive oil. The layers of flavors and textures make for a salad you’ll reach for again and again, every bite slightly nuanced, refreshing and delicious.

Happy Independence Day!

Ricotta Salata
Pine Nuts
Lemon Juice
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Balsamic Vinegar
Pequin Chili Pepper

Prep: If you have really high quality, thick authentic balsamic, use this and don’t bother with the following. If you’re using run-of-the-mill balsamic, reduce 1/4 cup of it on a high flame with a teaspoon of sugar. This will build the flavor of the balsamic and make it more syrupy. Toast the pine nuts by tossing them in a shallow pan over a high flame or in an oven at 300. Chiffonade the basil by piling basil leaves neatly atop each other with the the largest on the outside. Roll the leaves lengthwise and slice using a sharp knife.

If you’re plating each portion, slice the watermelon and ricotta into into splintered shapes and arrange them on a plate. These longer spears will give the salad some nice height on the plate. Give the melon and cheese a squeeze of lemon juice. Garnish with pine nuts and basil. Drizzle with balsamic reduction and olive oil (you won’t need much). Crush sea salt and pequins between your fingertips over the salad to taste.


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5 Responses to “Spicy Watermelon Salata”

  1. Isa says:

    I adore watermelon and will make this as soon as possible.I am from England although I have been to New York and loved it,especially eating out.I took my daughter ,on a months travelling all over with just a rucksack on the Greyhound never knowing where we were going to stay.It was amazing.

  2. Pietre Dure says:

    Hello T,
    We made this for ourselves last week and will be doing so again for a dinner party this weekend. Such a wonderful combo of flavors, so unexpected. We never fail to think of all of you when we eat this salad.

  3. Sally Lynch says:

    Oh Tarajia! I am having a problem with drooling again, thanks to you! Great recipe, great writing, great photos……… thank you.

  4. Silver Cat says:

    So refreshing…the heat of the pequins cooled by the crisp sweet watermelon!

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