Today’s delicious dish – Watermelon and Cucumber Salad
Watermelon is the taste of summer, as far as I am concerned. I love it; however, no one else in my family will eat it. So, when I buy a watermelon, I am committing to eating the entire thing by myself, unless I invite some people over to share it. Although I love watermelon just as it is, I do enjoy doing some different things with it.
Here’s a sweet and savory salad with watermelon, cucumber, and lime. It definitely needs to chill for a couple of hours, to take some of the bitterness away from the cucumber, and to give the flavors time to get friendly. I think this salad is a lovely accompaniment to all kinds of entrees.
Seedless watermelon has a reputation of being less flavorful, but there is some research that shows this is probably not true. If you prefer a regular watermelon, suit yourself. But you will probably want to pick out the seeds. Seedless watermelons are not exactly seedless – they have seeds that are immature (small and white) and in lesser numbers. With a seedless watermelon, you don’t have to remove seeds to make a salad; the few seeds found are not unpleasant to eat. This is something I am unusually finicky about, though, so I take the time to search for and get rid of seeds, even in a seedless watermelon.
I also remove the seeds from the cucumber. These seeds, too, are not inedible – I am just picky about seeds in my food. I often make this salad with English cucumber, which has nearly no seeds and a sweeter flavor. However, English cucumber is more expensive, and is sometimes hard to find, so I believe regular cucumber works just fine.
The easiest way to turn a half watermelon into cubes is to first trim away the rind, then slice the flesh into slabs. Then it is no big deal to make uniform cubes. It’s a messy job because watermelon is always losing liquid – after all, it’s over 90% water.
Sometimes limes seem to have no seeds at all, and so it is easy to just squeeze them directly into the mixing bowl. Other times, I get limes that seem to be full of seeds, and it can be difficult to catch them before they get into the dressing. I usually squeeze citrus fruits through a fine mesh strainer, which will catch any seeds.
This recipe calls for balsamic vinegar. Other vinegars will not be as successful in this salad; the dark sweetness of balsamic vinegar is just right. If you don’t have balsamic vinegar in your cupboard, get a small bottle. It is a bit expensive, but there are many wonderful ways to use it, and it keeps for a very long time.
After the salad chills, there will be a surprising amount of liquid at the bottom of the bowl. Before you serve the salad, toss it well, then drain away the liquid – but don’t throw it out! Save it in a container for another use – a delightful watermelon drink (the recipe follows this one).
Watermelon and Cucumber Salad
- 1/2 medium seedless watermelon (about 6 1/2 pounds)
- 2 medium cucumbers (about 14 ounces total)
- 2 medium limes
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Peel and trim watermelon and cut into small cubes, removing seeds if any are found. You should have about 8 cups cubed watermelon. Place in a large salad bowl.
Peel cucumbers. Scoop out and discard cucumber seeds. Cut cucumber into small cubes – you should have about 1 1/2 cups cubed cucumber. Add to salad bowl.
Zest skin of limes – you should have about 1 Tablespoon lime zest. Add to salad bowl.
Juice limes – you should have about 1/4 cup lime juice. In a small bowl, combine lime juice, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper, and whisk to make a dressing.
Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat. Cover and chill at least 2 hours. Toss salad, then drain accumulated liquid into a container and reserve for another use. Serve salad.
Makes 6 servings, each a generous 1 cup
Nutritional information (per serving): 94 calories, 2 grams fat, 0.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams protein, 19 grams carbohydrate, 41 grams sugars, 1 gram fiber, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 100 milligrams sodium
Cost per serving: 92 cents
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Chilling time: at least 2 hours
What happens next?
This salad will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Don’t freeze your leftovers if you hope it will still be salad after thawing. Both watermelon and cucumbers have such a high water content that freezing bursts the cell walls, which collapse when thawed. That makes a mushy mess, not a delicious salad.
Although I can enjoy this salad every day until it is gone, I realize that many people would lose interest in eating it after the second or third time. No worries! I created another way to enjoy the wonderful flavor of Watermelon and Cucumber Salad – in a drink.
Another day’s delicious dish – Watermelon Cooler
This drink is a bit sweet and also teasingly savory, with the subtle flavors of watermelon and cucumber. It can be made into an adult drink by adding a Tablespoon or a half shot of vodka to each serving of Watermelon Cooler. For an even more interesting drink, try using watermelon vodka.
After your 2 servings of Watermelon and Cucumber Salad are blended or processed, along with the reserved liquid from making that salad, you will need to strain out the fibrous pulp. Use a fine mesh strainer, not a colander, and let it drip. Then stir the pulp gently to let the liquid drip through. Don’t press the pulp very hard, because some of it will get pressed through the fine mesh and will end up making your drink gritty.
This recipe calls for a watermelon-flavored water bottle mix-in packet. That product boosts the watermelon flavor, adds a bit of sweetness, and gives a very nice color to the drink. If you can’t find watermelon flavor, try strawberry. If you don’t want to buy this product, or if you are trying to avoid artificial flavors and artificial sweeteners, you could substitute 1/4 cup grenadine syrup or pomegranate juice.
This tasty drink can also be frozen into popsicles, which would be, I guess, a third appearance of the Watermelon and Cucumber Salad.
If you haven’t saved 2 servings of Watermelon and Cucumber Salad, you can still make this drink. Just mix up 1 1/3 cups cubed watermelon, 1/4 cup cubed cucumber, 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, and a dash of salt and black pepper. You can substitute 3/4 cup fruit juice or 3/4 cup water for the reserved liquid from the salad.
- 2 servings Watermelon and Cucumber Salad (about 2 1/2 cups)
- Reserved liquid from Watermelon and Cucumber Salad (about 3/4 cup)
- 1 Watermelon-flavored single water bottle mix-in packet (.66 ounces)
- The juice of 1 lime (about 2 Tablespoons)
- 1 liter Club Soda, chilled
Puree Watermelon and Cucumber Salad in blender or food processor, with liquid saved from salad. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a pitcher. Discard pulp. Whisk in contents of water bottle mix-in packet and lime juice. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Just before serving, whisk in chilled Club Soda.
Serve over ice.
Makes 6 servings, each about 1 cup (8 ounces)
Nutritional information (per serving): 40 calories, .5 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams sugars, 0 grams fiber, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 67 milligrams sodium
Cost per serving: 70 cents
Preparation time: 15 minutes