I crave melon in the summer, and it turns out the urge might be physiological: We’re drawn to water-rich foods in hot weather because they keep us hydrated and because they require less energy to digest than high-fat or high‑protein foods. But after weeks of melon wedges, slices, cubes, and balls, I find myself wanting something more exciting, with a bit more texture and even salty, savory flavors. Enter melon salad.
At its root, it’s a pretty old concept. Greeks have been combining watermelon with salty feta cheese for centuries or perhaps millennia, and the pairing is genius: The sweetness of the fruit balances the brininess of the cheese, and the salty, crumbly cheese makes the melon seem even sweeter and more explosively juicy.
Somewhere along the line, cooks began to riff off this concept, pairing melon with all sorts of other salty, savory, and/or creamy ingredients and drizzling the whole thing with oil and vinegar. But these innovations can be problematic. Often the components don’t fully meld—or, worse, they overpower the melon—and the dressing can taste watered-down.
My mission was to rethink melon salad to make it more cohesive and balanced and to devise some enticing combinations that could be eaten as refreshing side dishes.