If you’ve been a food blogger as long as I have, you’ve been through a few different stages of the sport. At one time many of us joined in blog hops and all blogged around a particular subject, chef, or book for sometimes months on end. I belonged to several such groups over the years, but one of my favorites was INA FRIDAYS, which I organized, developed, and participated in April, 2013 – December, 2014. Our fun group of bloggers — many of whom are still blogging years later — cooked and wrote about an Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) recipe the first Friday of every month; I have wonderful memories of the entire escapade! We all learned lots, but for me, maintaining a job, two blogs, writing a book, and keeping up the house got to be a wee much after a while. I was relieved when we decided we maybe had eaten the best of Ina after all! There’s no doubt though I’m still a big Ina fan and you’ll often see a book or two of hers next to my reading chair or on my counter anytime of year. Type in “Ina Fridays” into the search box and catch a few Ina Fridays if you like.
One hot early September Ina Friday, I just wasn’t cooking much and pounced on Ina’s Arugula, Watermelon, and Feta Salad for my post. Following her basic line of thought, but looking at the summer-perfect fruit and the greens, I simply couldn’t toss them all together in a bowl as per the instructions and ended up making more of a composed salad, as you see below. (Ina Friday blogpost here.)
A salad — or any dish — made with such a handful of ingredients require said elements to all be the choicest you can find. When we ate, I decided I’d gone in the right direction with the composed version as that heavy sweet melon, especially, deserved to be savored on its own — at least for part of the time. Last week, after my husband Dave cut both Rocky Ford, Colorado cantaloupe and watermelon for brunch on Sunday, he said to me, “We need to think of something to do with all the rest of that melon.” I didn’t have to wonder long to remember Ina’s perfectly balanced sweet and salty dish and had just seen a recent similar recipe by Nigella Lawson, another favorite of mine, which probably had pinged my brain. (Nigella’s version includes black olives and onions!) Surely I could use both melons instead of only watermelon and skew it in some new way, but what to make to go with it or in it? A bag of frozen peeled, tail-on shrimp stored in the garage freezer came to mind as a fourth component of the salad. Rather than boil them, I thought they’d do better marinated in lime and olive oil and grilled. And so a new salad was born! Not caring to reinvent the wheel, I did use Ina’s basic citrus vinaigrette idea, but skipped the orange juice and went with a combination of lemon and lime juices as those were what I had on hand. A tiny bit of extra honey made up for the sweetness the OJ would have provided.
If you’ve never eaten melon and salty cheese, it might sound a bit off or odd to you, but give it a try; you will be surprised and probably soon addicted. It’s that salt and sweet love-one-another type thing — like caramel or chocolate with crusty sea salt. Opposites attract, right? Only make this in high summer when the melons are full and lushly fragrant, crying, “Use me now!!” This will also be the time when mint is available, cheap, and thick. The shrimp can, of course, be left off (or you could use chunks of leftover grilled salmon, too) or, to make it really easy, buy cooked shrimp and give them a little extra drizzle of the lemon-lime vinaigrette! Make sure you buy a chunk of feta in brine if possible and not crumbled feta in a plastic container; you need the real quality deal if at all possible. While summer is still with us, however you make it, do try this. It doesn’t take long:
melon and grilled shrimp salad with lemon-lime vinaigrette
SHRIMP AND MARINADE:
- 1- pound large shrimp-peeled, with tails on
- ¼ teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- Zest and juice from one lime
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cups baby spinach
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- 2 cups each diced ripe watermelon and cantaloupe
- 2- ounces diced feta, 1/2 cup (Buy a wedge, not crumbles.)
- Lemon-Lime Vinaigrette, recipe below
- ¼ cup minced fresh mint for garnish
- MARINATE/REFRIGERATE THE SHRIMP: In a large, shallow, non-reactive dish, place shrimp in an even layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Zest the lime onto the shrimp, then cut it in half, and squeeze the juice on top. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to combine. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least two hours or up to overnight.
- MAKE THE SALAD/PLACE IN FRIDGE: In a large, shallow serving dish or platter, scatter the spinach around the perimeter. Zest the half-lemon evenly over the greens. Add the diced melon at the center and top with feta cheese. Sprinkle all with salt and pepper. Place in the fridge while you grill the shrimp.
- GRILL THE SHRIMP: Preheat grill to medium (350 degrees F), oil grates, and add shrimp. Cook 2 minutes on each side or until opaque. Remove to a platter. Refrigerate if not using right away.
- ADD SHRIMP + VINAIGRETTE TO SALAD AND SERVE: Remove salad from fridge and add shrimp around the edges on top of the greens. Drizzle the salad evenly with the lemon-lime vinaigrette and serve immediately garnished with chopped mint.
- 3 tablespoons each fresh lemon and lime juice
- 1/8 teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons minced shallot
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
OPTIONS: Use only one or the other melon if that’s what you have. Sub leftover grilled salmon for the shrimp or skip the fish! Salty ham or prosciutto are other ideas. No feta? Consider Mexican queso fresco or cojita. Goat cheese is another idea. Any greens might replace the baby spinach. Parsley on hand or basil? Perhaps try one of those in place of the mint if need be. (Or see if a neighbor has any mint; it’s really good here!!) There’s little that replaces fresh citrus, but if you only have lemons, so be it! Oranges? Go with that then. Vinaigrette? I hate to admit it, but some people serve watermelon-feta salad with balsamic vinaigrette.
ACCOMPANIMENTS: I think this salad is fine all by its lonesome, though I made a batch of blueberry muffins since I had blueberries about to bite the dust. Another option would be to grill a few pieces of pita bread.
WINE: Rosé or Cava. Light, refreshing, and quite cold.
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LIFE GOES ON
Thanks for reading along and spending time with me in the kitchen! I hope you’re cooking — or throwing together if it’s too warm — something terrifically tasty this week.
August 21, 2020
Currently, 92 large fires have burned nearly 1.2 million acres in 14 states. About 25,000 wildland firefighters and support personnel are assigned to incidents across the country. Critical weather conditions caused several fires in California to gain tens of thousands of acres. Evacuation orders are in place for residents near wildfires in Arizona, California, Colorado and Oregon.—National Interagency Fire Center
We are pretty much indoors right now due to the plethora of smoke from Colorado and perhaps other wildfires. We’re cautioned to keep the windows closed and to avoid outdoor exercise. Today a fire has broken out on the north slope of Pike’s Peak, which is — so far — the closest fire.
Pray for all of us out west during what’s becoming a horrific fire season. Climate change record-high temperatures push the number and intensity of the blazes every year, but this is more than with which our western fire crews can deal. Stay cool, stay healthy, and be good to yourselves.