I love watermelon and love to find ways to eat it every day in the summer. Crisp, sweet, refreshing watermelon. In ancient Egypt watermelon was put in tombs to provide water for the long journey ahead—even King Tut was provisioned with watermelon for the afterlife! For a millennium watermelon has been used as a canteen, of sorts, stored for use in times of drought. The sweetness we know this summer fruit to have was actually bred into it: ancient societies grafted the plants to eliminate their bitterness until, as Mark Twain proclaimed, “To taste watermelon is to taste what angels eat.”
Avocados date back 10,000 years—to the opposite shores of Central and South America. Avocados were once the snack of choice for mammoths, giant land sloths, and the gomphotheres (mammals similar to modern-day elephants). They would swallow them whole and excrete the seeds, which would then be deposited in a completely different locale to grow into trees. Today there are groves and groves of avocados, and we have the luxury of eating them by the tons—although because we are not megafauna (creatures usually the size of a FedEx truck), we have to at least peel and seed them before indulging.
The following recipe is a melange of color and texture, with crisp watermelon, creamy avocado, pungent arugula, succulent heirloom tomatoes, sweet cherries, and just a hint of habanero pepper. It’s my favorite go-to for the hot months of the year.
3 ounces arugula
½ watermelon, chopped (about 4 cups)
2 just-ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, and sliced
1 heirloom tomato, sliced
1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and chopped
2 ounces feta cheese
¼ ounce (or 1 tablespoon) fresh mint, finely chopped
Juice and zest of 2 limes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Dash habanero powder (or ⅛ teaspoon chopped habanero pepper )
This salad looks like a really pretty layered like a cake. Start with a bed of arugula. Arrange the watermelon on top, then add the avocados, the tomatoes, the cherries, the feta, and the mint. Place the lime juice and zest, the olive oil, and the pepper in a blender (the smaller the carafe the better) and blend to emulsify. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve.
Because of the vividness and contrast of the colors, you can think of this salad as a painting and connect to your inner artist to create any effect that’s calling to you. Whether you layer it vertically or horizontally or toss it into an abstract-expressionist concoction, it’ll dazzle the eyes and delight the taste buds.
Serves 6-8 (depends on how much you keep for just YOU!)