Tuesday, July 2, 2013

It's Hot! Watermelon is Cool!

It is hot, just plain hot, and I am not singing along with Buster Poindexter. It’s hot here in the Bay Area! And I do not like hot, at least not this hot. And it is hot across the Southwest where wild fires have been raging.

Nineteen elite firefighters were killed Sunday while battling a wild fire in Yarnell, Arizona. They were doing what they were trained to do – to fight wild fires and to keep people and structures safe. My prayers go out to the families of these brave men and the community that will miss them so dearly.

My family lived next to a fire station, Woodside FireProtection District Station 8, for 18 years.
When my sons were wee ones, the three of us would almost daily pay a post-afternoon nap visit to the “Fire Boys”, as my sons called them. We became good friends and good neighbors with the men, and eventually, the women, who staffed Station 8. They provided us with care and friendship that exceeds the best of what a neighbor can do. Yes, they actually rescued our kitten from a tree, with a neighbor's barking dog at their heels. Firefighters still do things like that. And they risk their lives. I always said a prayer whenever I heard their truck go out. 

We now live in Redwood City, not far from a busy fire house. I hear the siren daily. I say a prayer each time I hear that siren – a prayer of thanks and of hope that all will be safe.

When it's hot, I don't feel much like eating. Cooking, yes, as I do for my catering and personal chef clients. The family ends up having refrigerator forage nights if I haven't planned something for the grill, which usually isn't lighted until after sundown.

I've found a nifty culinary way to cool down that doesn't require any actual cooking - Watermelon! Native to Southern Africa, watermelon has traveled the world and can be called a truly global ingredient. Sliced and eaten out of hand with a pinch of salt as we all did as kids on hot summer days is perfect, but  Citrullus lanatus has grown up along with my palate.  I now make watermelon the focal point of a summer salad that has my family and clients swooning.

The bright red watermelon - a salute to our brave firefighters!

Watermelon, Feta & Arugula Salad with Honey Vinaigrette

Watermelon and Feta Salad with Honey Vinaigrette


    • 4 TBS Cider Vinegar
    • 1 TBS Dijon mustard
    • 2 TBS Honey
    • Salt and Pepper
    • 4 TBS Olive Oil
    • 4 TBS Vegetable Oil
    • 1 small watermelon
    • 16 oz crumbled Feta cheese
    • Arugula
    • Chopped Mint, optional


    1. Place vinegar, honey, mustard, salt and pepper in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake until the ingredients are combined. Add the oils and shake again to combine. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper and even vinegar and honey if necessary. You should have a combination of sweet and sour, with neither flavor overpowering the other.
    2. Cube watermelon according to the recipe below.
    3. Toss arugula in the dressing, arrange cubed watermelon over it and top with the feta and chopped mint. Drizzle some leftover dressing over the cheese. Enjoy!

For a favorite appetizer 

Watermelon-Tomato Cups with Feta and Mint

Watermelon-Tomato Cups

Adapted by Margie MacKenzie, from GIADA DELAURENTIS


    • 1 small seedless watermelon
    • 1 pint cherry tomato
    • 1 bunch fresh mint
    • 16 oz crumbled feta cheese
    • 12 small appetizer cups, bamboo or other similar "tasting" cup
    • 12 wooden cocktail forks


    1. Slice the top and bottom off and then make four straight cuts down the sides to create a rindless cube. Cut the cube into 1 1/2 inch thick slices and then each slice into 1 1/2 inch cubes.
    2. Slices the cherry tomatoes in half.
    3. Remove mint leaves from the stems. Roll 5-6 leaves together lengthwise and then slice into very thin ribbons (chiffonade); repeat with remaining leaves until all are sliced.
    4. To assemble: place 2-3 watermelon cubes and 2-3 tomato slices, depending on the size, into the serving cup. Drizzle with Honey Vinaigrette then sprinkle with a few basil ribbons and then with some crumbled feta. Serve with wooden cocktail fork.

Stay cool and stop by your local fire station and say thank you!

Happy Independence Day!

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