Bring on the flip flops, BBQs, sunscreen and pool time. Memorial Day is on it’s way and in my book that means summer is practically here. Everyone loves summer, duh, but one of the reasons I love it is for the food. Summer is full of simple, fresh, healthy food. And ice cream. Those sunny days make me crave salads, fruit and grilled anything. And let’s be honest, you know you’ll be going to a few BBQs this summer and sometimes the old pasta-salad-with-Italian-dressing-cucumbers-tomatoes-olives gets a little humdrum. This fresh watermelon salad will liven up any potluck spread and it is guaranteed to elicit some recipe requests. Oh, and did I mention that it’s easy?? Like, really easy. Fresh watermelon + basil + pine nuts + olive oil + balsamic vinegar + salt + pepper, that’s it.
Perhaps for some of you, adding savory ingredients like olive oil, salt, pepper, and basil to a sweet, summery fruit feels weird. I hear you. But trust me, it works. The vanilla fig balsamic keeps the sweetness of the dish in-check and adds an exciting depth of flavor, while the olive oil brings a richness that seems to smooth the flavors together, the salt enhances the natural watermelon flavor, the pepper gives it a gentle kick, and the basil adds freshness. If basil and watermelon were on a color-wheel of flavor they would definitely be complimentary colors. They are the “Ken and Barbie” power-couple of the kitchen if you ask me. And a flavor duo that should be the anthem to your summer.
Let me pause for a minute to talk about the balsamic we used from “Our Best Bites”. It’s no ordinary balsamic (if you’re in a pinch you can definitely use regular balsamic, but it won’t be quite the same). Have you guys heard of these ladies? I’m sure you have. They have some go-to, no-fail great recipes on their blog and have expanded their brand with their own product line of oil and vinegar and other kitchen awesomeness. But guys, seriously. Their vinegar and oil line is so good and a perfect way to enhance simple flavors. The rosemary olive oil is one of my favorites (hmm, perhaps I’ll make it a sweet pick…). I put it on any vegetable I roast and it’s downright delightful. They also have a blood orange olive oil that will turn a boring leafy salad upside down and jalapeño olive oil to spice up any dish in a flash. Go check them out. They aren’t even paying me to say that, promise.
Okay, now let’s make this salad!
- 4 cups watermelon, cubed
- 1/3 cup basil, cut in long, thin strips (chiffonade)
- 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Our Best Bites Vanilla Fig Balsamic
- kosher salt, a few dashes to taste
- fresh cracked pepper, to taste
- To start off you’re going to have to tame the watermelon beast and chop it up. I dread this process because it’s a juicy mess and my knife never seems sharp enough to battle the thick watermelon and rind. But alas, it must be done. So roll up your sleeves and let’s get to it. It will be worth it. A great tip I learned somewhere along the way (probably some Food Network show) is to cut your watermelon on a rimmed cookie sheet. It keeps the juice from flowing all over your countertop and onto the floor. It’s been a game-changer for me in the watermelon department.
- Next, chiffanode the basil. Chiffa-what? Chiffanode. It is a fancy word for cutting into long, thin strips and is actually quite easy. Stack all the basil leaves on top of each other and then roll up your leafy pile into a basil-like cigar. Take a sharp knife and start cutting the “cigar” into thin strips. When you’re done you’ll have long, thin pieces that unroll and are ready for the salad.
- Lastly, toast pine nuts on medium heat in a frying pan for a couple of minutes until light brown. Warning don’t try to multi-task at this point. It won’t work. They burn quickly! Keep your eyes on the prize here, people.
- To assemble place the watermelon into a large serving bowl and add basil, olive oil, vanilla fig balsamic, a good pinch of salt and a bit of fresh cracked pepper to taste. Mix all ingredients together. If you want it to look extra-awesome garnish the salad with a few additional pine nuts, a bit more basil, and a little more salt and pepper on top. Take a bite. Then take a picture. Duh. Doesn’t everyone take a picture after they make a culinary masterpiece?