Watermelon with Ricotta Salata

So light and refreshing!

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Every summer when I see ricotta salata in the store, I always snap one up.  Ricotta Salata is an Italian cheese, made by pressing fresh ricotta into baskets, salting them, and letting them dry.  It’s like a very mild feta, that’s not quite as crumbly as feta.  I usually use it in a summer pasta dish, but  today, it seemed appropriate to combine it with this bad boy!

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Ricotta Salata is usually only available in the summer months, as it is a somewhat still-fresh, highly perishable cheese…but oh so good!

I decided I might see about making a watermelon salad with the ricotta salata.  I’ve seen recipes with feta, but those have not appealed to me.

To serve two, you will need:

  • 4 cups of seedless watermelon chunks, approximately
  • 1/4 cup red onion slivers
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt, either kosher or sea salt
  • and freshly ground black pepper
  • about a 1 to 2-inch piece of ricotta salata (or a mild feta)
  • fresh mint, either spearmint or peppermint (optional)

Place the slivered onions in a small bowl, and pour the lime juice over it.  Add the olive oil, and pepper (not the salt, not yet).

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Arrange the watermelon cubes on the salad/serving plates, lightly drizzle the dressing over it.  Use a grater, knife, or vegetable peeler to grate the cheese over the salad.

Just before serving, lightly sprinkle with the salt, and a final sprinkle of pepper.

Buen Provecho!!

Note 1: However, WARNING!! this salad does not make good leftovers, and should only be assembled minutes!! before being consumed.  The dressing can be made in advance, the watermelon cut, and cheese grated.  But, the watermelon will start to deteriorate the minute that the salt (from the cheese, and the salt garnishment, too) and the acid from the lime.

Otherwise, it’s a great summer salad for a picnic or BBQ, with last minute assembly required.

Note 2:  I had serious reservations before making this salad.  I mean, why mess with a perfect watermelon? (And this one was perfect, indeed!) So, I coerced a friend to try this with me at lunch.  She was game, as long as I got the red onions cut just right: she will only eat “shaved” onions, ie, sliced really, really thin.  Done.

Placing the onions in the dressing helped to bolster the flavor of the dressing and diffuse the strength of  the onions (which were pretty strong). So, this was a great idea.  We both felt that the onions alone, fresh and raw, would have been overpowering.

We added the mint, ever so slightly on top, finely minced.  However, neither one of use liked it.  It was really strong.  My friend thought that placing it in the dressing, and “muddling” it to bring out some of the mint flavor, and then removing the mint, would have been just right.

The verdict: My friend warned me the day before that she was not one of those people who put salt on their watermelons! (I am!)  Once the plate was put in front of her, she didn’t say anything, but just kept eating, and talking,

and eating,

and talking…

I finally had to ask her opinion…which is when she brought up the mint.  We both could have done without it.  Otherwise, the dressing was perfect, the onions were tender, and the cheese a mildly salty/savory accent to the watermelon.  I think she was most surprised that she liked salt and pepper on her watermelon; I was most surprised that I liked lime on my watermelon!

I see watermelon/lime popsicles in our future!

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