Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Watermelon, arugula & goat cheese salad with balsamic drizzle

I'd never complain about eating rabbit food again!  I know I'm about to eat my words, but -- gulp -- I love this salad!  That's right, s-a-l-a-d!  This cool, crisp, tangy, peppery, sweet, creamy summer-on-a-plate salad. In fact, I'd order this over a steak any day of the week.  What, can't a girl change her mind? :)

After a weekend of grilling, grilling, ice cream, and more grilling, I just wanted something light, juicy, and cold.  (And that used minimal dishes because I finally started packing last night.  So far I've got nine boxes filled... with movies, books, and games.  Tonight's adventure is kitchen items!)  Thankfully, future Katy somehow got through to past Katy and made her incorporate a salad into this week's meal plan.  Well played, self!

I stumbled upon this salad last week when I discovered the glorious foodie website Serious Eats.  I could kill an hour perusing that site.

And that's exactly what I did.  I searched and clicked and my eyes lit up at the sight of so many new ideas.  I guess I was in a bit of a cooking lull and didn't realize it until that moment.  Churning out new recipes is one thing, but feeling inspired and excited about them is a different animal completely.  And I have this salad to thank as the first recipe to get my gears turning.

As the author so aptly describes it, this salad is unusual and stunning at the same time.  It's also a piece of cake!  And French... go figure!  So easy that it's almost unfair to folks who slave away in a kitchen for hours to impress dinner guests with a dish that will disappear forever in 10, 15 minutes tops.  Let's be honest -- it doesn't matter how long you spend cooking that food, if it looks and tastes great, no one will think twice about the preparation.

If ever there were a dish that could inspire someone, this is it.  The cheese is creamy and tangy and smooth.  The watermelon is sweet and juicy and melts in your mouth.  The arugula is peppery and crunchy and so full of flavor that, somewhere, iceberg lettuce is crying itself to sleep because it knows your relationship is over now.  And the balsamic glaze?  Sweet and thick, like a dessert sauce that -- surprise! -- is atop your very healthy dinner salad.  Go ahead and call it rabbit fare if you must, you'll enjoy it anyway!

Watermelon, Arugula, and Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Glaze
(adapted from Serious Eats)
-serves 2

A few notes: If it's more heft you (or a male dinner companion) are craving, try a thinly sliced cooked chicken breast or a small steak mixed in with the salad.  No special seasonings necessary since the elements are incredibly flavorful already.

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/8 large watermelon, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cups baby arugula
4 ounces chevre goat cheese
Black pepper

Make a balsamic syrup by pouring the vinegar into a small saucepan and simmering over medium heat just long enough for it to reduce and have a thick, running consistency - about 5 minutes. Set aside, as it will thicken further as it cools.

Assemble each salad on its plate.  First some arugula, then watermelon. Crumble the chèvre over the watermelon, and season with cracked black pepper and fleur de sel.  Drizzle with balsamic syrup, and serve.

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