When my daughter was in high school, she came home one afternoon and made an announcement: “Mom, guess what? I have a new hobby: Evolutionary Biology. I’m really good at it!” Megan and I share a lot of hobbies: cooking, blogging, birding, foraging, dolphin watching, kayaking. And, yes, evolutionary biology. No, neither one of us was prom queen. Don’t rub it in!
You are probably wondering what evolutionary biology has to do with watermelon. Be patient!
Have you ever noticed that our interest in particular foods tends to come in waves? You hear yourself say “I’m on a blackberry kick right now,” or, “I just can’t seem to get enough asparagus.” I think that happens in part because our bodies need certain kinds of nutrients; we are most aware of flat out cravings like this during pregnancy. I remember wanting strawberries every day when I was pregnant with Brian. Our emotions can also influence our food wants-I “needed” chicken with dumplings after my brother died; I just wanted comfort food even though it was July.
I think the tendency to get on food kicks is a product of the evolutionary process. When humans were hunter-gatherers, they had to eat what was available and seasonal. If the mulberries were ripe, they needed to stuff themselves with mulberries. If Caveman Bob killed a wild turkey, the whole family picked that carcass clean!
Watermelon is one of those foods for me. I won’t think of watermelon for months, but then the weather gets warm and I get an urge for a big, slurpy slice. With lime. I’m bummed that we now have these seedless hybrids because I like spicy watermelon seeds.
A few years ago, I started seeing recipes for savory-sweet watermelon salads and, at first I was uninterested. But I remembered my mom telling me her father used to love watermelon with salt, and I decided to give it a try. My grandfather was right! A little salt brings out the sweet juiciness of the melon; which in turn plays well with the bitterness of arugula and the rich fattiness of cheese and nuts. Even if you’re dubious, try it! Let me know what you think.
I am going to give you directions to make enough salad for two to share for lunch or as a salad course. Or you could eat it all yourself and call it supper, like I did. Hey! Everyone was away!
Vegan and paleo friends: Leave out the cheese or use your favorite substitute.
2 cups cubed watermelon
2 cups arugula (or whatever greens you like)
5 big mint leaves, torn
1 ½ oz goat cheese, crumbled
¼ cup pepitas (feel free to substitute pistachios or toasted walnuts)
juice of ½ lime
2 tbs. good xv olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
Put the arugula and mint into the salad bowl and squeeze over most of the lime and drizzle with the oil, season with salt and pepper and toss gently. Hands are best for this. Now top with the melon, then cheese, nuts go on top. The order is very important. Just kidding.
Drizzle with the last of the lime juice. Come on, use some muscle! And a final sprinkle of salt. Toss before serving.