Cooking Simple: Fresh Watermelon and Feta Salad

It’s hard to improve on the flavor and appearance of a luscious, chilled watermelon during the hot days of August. When you’ve tasted watermelon grown in the South, you’ve savored “what the angels eat,” Mark Twain told us in his novel Pudd’nhead Wilson.

My grandkids would agree with Twain, who also considered the Southern watermelon to be “king by (the) grace of God over all the fruits of the earth.” Because it’s so complete by itself, they’re happy with just a slice of watermelon.

However, at a party for adults, it may need to be a bit more embellished, particularly when the ladies are wearing high heels and fancy jewelry or even dressing down casually but attractively for beer and barbecue. If you have friends and neighbors over for a summer appetizer, don’t treat them as angels who would know that watermelon by itself is heavenly. On planet Earth, do serve watermelon but first dress it up with goat cheese.

Sue Stovall of Paradox Farm Creamery in West End has been making goat cheese since 2007. For August, she recommends teaming watermelon with a tangy goat milk feta, such as her Feta Complee (punningly distorting fait accompli in a play on words). Sold in brine, it adds saltiness to make the watermelon sizzle.

“Feta in brine contrasts with the sweet watermelon and highlights the flavors,” Stovall says. “Sometimes I also add a little balsamic vinegar to give it more flavor.”

Because it’s sweet, watermelon profits from the tanginess of goat cheese, which complements it with a tart, earthy punch. Adding a garnish of fresh mint makes it all taste like summer and helps everyone cool down with the refreshing watermelon flavor.

Ingredients – Makes 10 servings

Half of one small watermelon, preferably grown locally.

4 oz. feta goat cheese

Bunch of small fresh mint leaves

(Optional) Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Directions

1. Cut half of one small watermelon into 1” cubes and place in large bowl.

2. Crumble goat cheese onto watermelon cubes.

3. Gently toss to combine.

4. Chill up to 2 hours.

5. (Optional:) Add a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar. Gently toss to combine.

6. Garnish with mint leaves.

Ray Linville, a regular contributing writer of OutreachNC, has a love for Southern foods with a fresh twist.