Watermelon Salads

My kids and I love summer watermelon. We usually just chomp on slices of it at the beach, but I recently incorporated it into two refreshing summer side salads.

The first was an adaptation of the classic Middle Eastern Tabouli Salad substituting watermelon for tomatoes. What a great idea! 🙂 The second was another classic Middle Eastern way of serving watermelon- with feta and basil. I made it for a party and was unable to capture it in a photo. You can (will have to!) imagine how pretty it looked. I had been unaware of how wonderful watermelon pairs with feta cheese- so simple and tasty.

The tabbouleh recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living and the watermelon-feta salad recipe was adapted from Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi. Fresh, seasonal and delicious.

Tabbouleh with Watermelon

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • coarse salt
  • 3/4 cup bulgur wheat (I used coarse red bulgur)
  • 1 1/2 to 3+ cups peeled and coarsely chopped watermelon
  • 2/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 ounces soft goat or feta cheese, crumbled
  1. Bring water and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in bulgur, and remove from heat. Let stand, covered, for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and let stand, uncovered, until cooled, 15 to 30 minutes. (I spread the cooked bulgur out on a rimmed baking sheet to speed the cooling process.)
  2. Transfer bulgur to a bowl, and toss with watermelon, parsley, scallions, oil, lemon zest and juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  3. Gently fold in cheese. Serve.

Watermelon, Basil & Feta Salad

Yield: Serves 4

  • 10 oz block feta (preferable sheep’s milk)
  • 4 to 5 cups of large-dice watermelon cubes
  • 3/4 cups basil leaves, chiffonade
  • 1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
  • olive oil, for drizzling
  1. Slice the feta into large but thin pieces, or just break it by hand into rough chunks.
  2. Arrange all of the ingredients, except for the olive oil, on a platter or bowl, mixing them up a little.
  3. Drizzle olive oil over the top and serve immediately.

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Ottolenghi’s Chicken with Caramelized Onions & Cinnamon-Cardamom Rice

This dish was a HUGE hit! We were all fighting over the leftovers!! 🙂 It’s a great dish to feed a crowd. I substituted boneless, skinless chicken thighs for a whole chicken, ground cardamom for cardamom pods, and golden raisins for barberries or currants. The resulting dish was full-flavored with perfectly cooked Basmati rice and very tender chicken. I LOVE one pot meals- and anything with caramelized onions. The addition of fresh parsley, dill and cilantro added color and brightness. This recipe was adapted from “Jerusalem: A Cookbook” by by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, via the New York Times. In order for the chicken and rice to be cooked perfectly, the chicken must be seared and browned before adding to the rice and the water must be boiling before adding to the dish, covering, and completing the cooking process. No one in my crowd opted to top the dish with Greek yogurt- maybe next time. DELICIOUS!!

Time: 1 hour, plus 30 minutes cooking and 10 minutes resting

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

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  • 2 1/2 tablespoons barberries, currants, dried cranberries, or golden raisins (25 grams)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced (2 cups/250 grams)
  • 2 1/4 pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (1 kilogram), or 1 whole chicken, quartered, or 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 3 pounds)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 cardamom pods or 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • rounded 1/4 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 2 long cinnamon sticks, broken in two
  • 1 2/3 cups white Basmati rice (300 grams)
  • 2 1/4 cups boiling water (550 milliliters)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dill leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt (100 grams), mixed with 2 tablespoons olive oil (optional topping)
  1. If using barberries: Put 3 T (40 grams) sugar and scant 3 tablespoons water in a small saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat, add the barberries, and set aside to soak. If using currants, cranberries, or golden raisins you do not need to soak them in this way.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 2T olive oil in a large sauté pan for which you have a lid over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion has turned a deep golden brown. Transfer the onion to a small bowl and wipe the pan clean.
  3. Place the chicken in a large mixing bowl and season with 1½ teaspoons each salt and black pepper. Add the remaining 2T olive oil, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon and use your hands to mix everything together well. Heat the frying pan again and place the chicken and spices in it. Sear chicken for 4 to 5 minutes on each side and remove from the pan (this is important as it par-cooks the chicken). The spices can stay in the pan, but don’t worry if they stick to the chicken. Remove most of the remaining oil as well, leaving just a thin film at the bottom. Add the rice, caramelized onion, 1 teaspoon salt and plenty of black pepper. Drain the barberries, if using, and add them as well; otherwise add the dried fruit being used. Stir well and return the seared chicken to the pan, pushing it into the rice.
  4. Pour the boiling water over the rice and chicken, cover the pan, and cook over very low heat for 30 minutes. Take the pan off the heat, remove the lid, quickly place a clean tea towel over the pan, and seal again with the lid. Leave the dish undisturbed for another 10 minutes. Finally, add the herbs and use a fork to stir them in and fluff up the rice. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve hot or warm with yogurt mixture if you like.
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Spicy Israeli Couscous with Summer Squash

This side dish is delicious warm or cold. It has a little bit of spice from the red pepper flakes, but the amount can be easily adjusted to taste. I use Trader Joe’s Israeli Couscous blend which also includes red quinoa, split dried garbanzo beans, and orzo. We ate it with grilled Palestinian chicken and green salad- a gold standard Middle Eastern meal in our house! The recipe was adapted from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.

  • 1 1/4 cups Israeli couscous
  • 1 3/4 cups stock (I used chicken stock)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 cup diced yellow summer squash (or 1 small)
  • 1 cup diced zucchini (or 1 small)
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas (garbanzos)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder (I used sweet curry powder)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt, more to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  1. Bring stock to a boil and then add couscous. Cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, or until all liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes.  (Yields 3 cups of cooked couscous.)
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add and sauté the squash, zucchini, red onion, and garlic for 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the chickpeas and spices. Then gently stir in the cooked couscous. Cook until hot, about 8 minutes.
  4. Garnish with parsley before serving.

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