Recipe: Watermelon & Mozzarella Salad with Mint & Pine Nuts
Watermelon is not something we really think of as having a ‘season’. Yes, it is one of the fruits that we associate with Summer, but it is something in our 12 month a year supermarket culture that we always see as readily available. I’ll keep the sermon on seasonality short, by simply telling you that you’ll get the very best tasting watermelons if you buy them in season, in July and August. Last month I gave you this recipe inspired by my Southern Californian holiday this Spring for Gin & Watermelon Juice with Fresh Basil, and now I want to present you with such a delicious, flavourful, easy and lettuce free salad which makes for the perfect high Summer barbecue accompaniment. (I like it with my Skinny Sticky Storecupboard Barbecue Chicken!)
Putting fresh watermelon, some sort of mild, creamy cheese and fresh mint together in a salad is nothing new. Just search ‘Watermelon Salad’ on Pinterest and you’ll come up with everyones variation on a theme. However, I just had to share my version with you all, after I just threw what I had in the fridge together for lunch one day when I was stuck for ideas. Sometimes it is the simplest of dishes that really let the highest quality ingredient sing that are best, especially in the Summer heat when you really don’t feel like cooking much.
This salad will serve two as a side with some sort of barbecued meat, or just you as a lunchtime salad. I really meant it when I said buy the very best quality ingredients you can find or afford. The three big ones here are the sea salt you’re dressing your watermelon with (I use Breton Fleur de Sel I buy in Brittany), the Extra Virgin Olive Oil you’re drizzling the whole thing with (a good quality olive oil for dressing salads is pretty standard by now, right?) and your mozzarella. As a general rule, you get better mozzarella from delis and dedicated cheese shops (I have to close my eyes when I pay as it is around £7 a ball, but if you’re in London I adore the mozzarella from Neal’s Yard Dairy) but you can still get pretty great cheeses, both imported and made from British buffalo milk in tubs in the supermarket. (Oh, and as far as my serving dish is concerned, how did I make it as far as last week without purchasing a piece of Falcon Enamelware?)
- Small Handful Pine Nuts
- 1/4 of a Giant Watermelon
- Fleur de Sel (or another good quality) Sea Salt
- 4-5 Sprigs Fresh Mint
- 15-20 Buffalo Mozzarella Pearls
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper
First, toast the pine nuts. You can do this in a hot oven on a baking tray, but you have to watch them very carefully as they can turn in an instant. I prefer to toast them in a small frying pan over a medium heat where I can keep an eye on them and toss them around while they are toasting without having to open and close an oven door. Once they are nutty and golden brown, remove them instantly from the pan or baking tray so they don’t carry on toasting. Set aside.
Cube the watermelon into manageable, bite size chunks that are just only slightly bigger than your mozzarella pearls. Spread across your chopping board, and sprinkle evenly with a couple of pinches of sea salt. Toss together with the mozzarella pearls, and arrange in a serving dish.
Chiffonade the leaves of the fresh mint (the Food Network has a great guide on how to chiffonade – it is actually really simple, you just get to learn the name of a fancy new French preparation technique!) and sprinkle generously over the salad. Sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts, and drizzle generously with olive oil. Finish with a good few grinds of black pepper, and serve at room temperature.
If you’re after any more sides to go with barbecued meats that are chock full of fruit and veggies, but don’t use salad leaves as a base, why not try my Panzanella Salad (great for using up leftover hunks of homemade bread), my Purple Cabbage Slaw with Cucumber and Dill or this Asian Butter Bean Salad?