Humidity; 98%. Temperature: 95° F (35° C). Gas/petrol prices: Nearing $4 a gallon. Without a doubt, summer has arrived with a fury here in North Carolina. From now until about mid-September, there will be two extreme climates: unbearable heat outside along with frequent tropical storms, and inside the blizzard-like cool of the AC.
Despite this discomfort; the combination of frequent lightning storms and humid heat results in an abundance of delicious and locally grown produce such as tomatoes, corn, okra, cucumbers (known as “cukes” here in the USA south), zucchini, yellow squash, peaches, apricots, cantaloupe, watermelon and more. My mouth waters as I anticipate my favorite day in mid-August when our dear friends who own a fig tree in their back yard, call us to say that figs are finally sweet enough to be devoured and there is a big box filled with this fruit with my name on it.
This morning I woke up unusually early and instead of forcing myself back to sleep, I decided that I would enjoy the early morning hours by visiting the local farmers market. As I strolled through the market wearing my extra-large sunglasses, holding a big red cloth bag on my right shoulder and walking in sync with my fluff-ball dog Lizzy, we gaze at the colorful array of farm-fresh produce and I can’t help but wonder at the brilliance of our creator for having invented each and every one of these incredible edibles.
My eyes rest on a trailer speckled with beautiful cantaloupe and watermelons of various shapes and sizes and I remember my first year in North Carolina when I discovered that this fertile land grows the sweetest and juiciest watermelon on the planet.
This recipe is inspired by the many local North Carolinians who eat watermelon with a light sprinkle of salt and fresh ground black pepper, as well as remembering a delicious watermelon salad prepared by my aunt Karen on my recent visit to South Africa, and by suggestion from my friend Becky.
The sweetness of watermelon with the fresh tartness of sheep’s milk feta cheese, the tang of the lemon-garlic dressing along with the crunch from the roasted sunflower seeds makes for a delightful and refreshing summer salad that will have your mouth watering for more and your tummy happy it’s summer.
Farmers Market Watermelon and Feta Salad
Yield: 4 servings
- 4 cups loosely packed fresh baby spinach
- 2 cups bite size watermelon pieces
- 5 ounces feta cheese, preferably sheeps milk and in a brine, cut or crumbled into bite size pieces
- 1/2 cup raw unsalted sunflower seeds
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon honey (optional)
- fresh ground black pepper, to taste.
- Toast the sunflower seeds in a small pan on medium heat until they golden in color and fragrant, shaking the pan frequently to prevent burning. No butter or oil is needed to toast them.
- Combine the spinach, watermelon, feta and toasted sunflower seeds in a large bowl.
- In a small bowl, combine the salt and crushed garlic until they are mixed together to make a paste.
- Juice the lemon and pour the lemon juice over the garlic and salt paste.
- Add the olive oil and honey to the lemon juice mixture and mix or shake well until combined.
- Pour half of the salad dressing over the salad; and toss well.
- Add more dressing if needed so that the salad is well coated, but not overly-moist. The watermelon also adds moisture to the salad, so be careful not to use too much dressing. You can reserve the remainder of the salad dressing for another day.
- Serve immediately. Grind black pepper over the salad after it is plated.
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