Simply Food: Watermelon Salad

Watermelon, “is chief of this world’s luxuries, king by the grace of God over all of the fruits of the earth. When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat.” Mark Twain, from Puddn’head Wilson.

Watermelon is an iconic symbol of summer. A summertime picnic or grill out wouldn’t be the same without a big bowl of fresh ripe red watermelon. It is crisp, sweet and refreshing, especially when served really cold. Because watermelons are ninety percent water, I always considered them to be more sugary and sweet rather than a nutritious fruit. Sure, they are pretty to look at, drought resistant and help to hydrate a thirsty eater, but good for you? I didn’t think so. Then, I did a little research.

Turns out, I was incorrect. Go figure! Watermelon has an extremely high rate of nutrition per calorie. I have been striving to find foods that pack the most nutritional punch per calorie and watermelons are one of these foods. They are an excellent source of vitamin C, a major antioxidant. Antioxidants are nutrients that block some of the damage caused by free radicals. The buildup of free radicals over time is largely responsible for the aging process. So, slowing these down is something we all want to do. I know I would like to slow down my aging process and if eating sweet delicious watermelon helps, I’ll do it.

Watermelon also has a high vitamin A and beta-carotene content. Vitamin A and beta-carotene help support good eyesight and help to prevent glaucoma. Furthermore, high intakes of combined beta-carotene and vitamin C have resulted in warding off cancer, heart disease, reducing arthritis and minimizing asthmatic breathing problems. The red color of the watermelon’s pulp indicates a high content of lycopene, an antioxidant known for its ability to minimize cancer risks. So, eating lots of watermelon all summer long will quench your dehydration in the hot summer sun as well as support your immune system’s fight against disease. I’d say that is pretty amazing for a fruit delicious enough to feed the angels.

I spent the other day running errands with my dad. He told me about this watermelon salad he read about in a magazine. He said I should make it for a dinner party I was having that night. My dad thought it would be a great idea for my article as well. When we got back to his place, he showed me the picture. The photograph looked beautiful. I didn’t have time to read the whole recipe but I got a good look at the ingredients and figured I could wing it and probably change a few things to make it my own. I was happy to have a salad idea to serve my friends who were coming over for dinner that night. I planned on making carne asada and Spanish rice. Adding a salad to the mix was perfect. This watermelon salad had a Mexican style twist by including a Serrano chili vinaigrette. I thought that the sweet watermelon combined with spicy peppers sounded interesting. I actually thought it could be really delicious or it could taste gross. I did have some doubts that peppers, watermelon and cheese would taste good together. On the other hand, this salad with Serrano peppers would be the perfect complement to the Mexican meal I already had planned and if it tasted good, it would be perfect. So, I went for it. I gave it a shot. If nothing else, it would be pretty.

I cut the watermelon into squares, cut the cheese into squares and made the dressing. The whole thing took about fifteen minutes to prepare. It’s really very easy to make. Once I had it all stacked up, I liked the look of it. I decided to make it on one big platter instead of serving them individually. You could do it either way. You definitely want to add the dressing immediately before serving because the arugula wilts very quickly. Believe me, my guests were a little late and I wished I waited to add the dressing. Once we were all seated, I dove right in to a stack of watermelon salad. I loved it. The crisp sweet watermelon combined with the salty feta and the spicy dressing tasted amazing. It was a great combination. Before I knew it, all of the salad was eaten. If clean plates are a sign of liking a dish, everybody enjoyed it.

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