I love a good watermelon salad, especially for summer dinner parties. Not only are they juicy and refreshing, they’re also economical and easy to throw together.
The obvious challenge of serving watermelon is that it’s watery. If I served the watermelon as-is on a plate, it’ll get weepy and dilute the other flavours. I tried compressing watermelon by putting a slab of it on a clean towel and putting weight on top. That worked ok and will suffice for this recipe. Recently, I discovered a better technique.
Using our FoodSaver vacuum sealer that we regularly use alongside our sous vide machine, I vacuum sealed the watermelon to draw out the juices. A chef friend explained that vacuum sealing opens food’s “pores”. That may explain why meats tend to suck up marinates better after sealing. To take advantage of that effect, I added jalapeno slices to infuse heat and aroma into the watermelon.
If you’ve ever vacuum sealed food with liquid before, you’ll know how annoying it is. As the juices are pulled out of the bag, it prevents the heat seal from adhering. I learned that if I put a paper towel near the bag’s opening before sealing, it’ll soak up any excess liquid and allow the bag to seal properly.
After experimenting with several combinations, my friends agree that I’ve nailed it on this one. Avocado slices contributes butteriness while the feta and capers adds complex brininess. The piquant red onion and fresh mint leaves brightens whole salad. A drizzle of good olive oil and a sprinkle of coarse sea salt ties the unconventional flavours together.
If you don’t have time or the equipment to compress the watermelon, weighing it down for an hour as mentioned above helps a lot.
As a bonus, here’s a super quick and painless appetizer idea. I actually threw this together as an post-work snack so it’s not the prettiest but it sure was delicious. Layer jalapeno slices, basil leaves, and mozzarella cheese onto watermelon cubes. Sprinkle with pink salt and enjoy.
Jalapeno compressed watermelon salad
Yield: 4 servings
- 1 watermelon
- 2 jalapeno peppers, sliced
- 1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
- 1 avocado
- 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
- 1/3 cup capers, drained
- 1 bunch mint leaves
- 1/3 cup good olive oil
- coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- Remove the watermelon\'s and cut the flesh into 1 inch slabs. A 8X8 inch slab should be enough for each person. It is fine to have smaller slabs.
- Place the slabs into several vacuum seal bags. Do not overlap. Spread the jalapeno slices over the watermelon. Roll up a sheet or 2 of paper towel and place it into each bag. Vacuum seal the watermelon. The paper towel should soak up much of the juice.
- Place the bags into the fridge for an hour. Now is a good time to chill 4 salad plates too.
- To assemble, cut the bags open and discard the jalapeno slices. Cut the watermelon into the desired size and shape. I usually cut them into squares but it is up to you.
- Divide the compressed watermelon slices among 4 salad plates. Divide and top with the red onion, avocado slices, feta cheese and capers.
- Drizzle on the olive oil, season with sea salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh mint leaves and serve.