Ok, I’ve just noticed that three out of four recipes for this year’s BBQ special are vegetarian options. Sort of. The upcoming dessert is seriously hard to imagine in a meaty context anyhow, but still, once that fact dawned on me, I had two options. Go veg on this one too or go all out carnivore galore. Well hell… I did what I always do when I can’t decide between two wildly different things: I pick door number three.
In this case, that translates into leaving the final choice up to someone else, the ones sitting at my table, to be precise. This one’s a classic summer salad, a juicy, crunchy, fruity and, of course, BBQed number with an optional Rumpsteak or (“and”, when I’m sitting at that table, too~) fresh, shiny, juicy prawns on top. And it just occurred to me that this is one delicious way to turn the ever-present “tasty, but… again?!… feta & greek stuff combo” as I’ve called it last week, into something exciting, even for the vegetarians. Or so I hope. In any case, this one’s a fresh and crunchy side to anything sizzling a way on hot coals if you leave out the steak/prawns and it’s one delicious main dish with the steak/prawns resting on top of the pile~
Here’s what you need for 4 servings – or 1 large center-of-the-table salad bowl in the near vicinity of a loaded BBQ.
The Grilled Watermelon, Fennel and Sheepsmilk Feta Salad
300-400g/1 Head of Iceberg Salad, very thinly sliced into ribbons
300-400g/1 Mini Watermelon, preferably of a kind containing few to no seeds – makes sure it’s perfectly ripe, otherwise it will fall flat in the aroma department
4 leafy Sprigs of Mint, very finely chopped
1 Lemon, Zest and Juice
Coarse Sea Salt
Celery or Herb Salt and freshly cracked Black Pepper to taste
1 Tsp Hot Chilli Flakes
200g Sheepsmilk Feta, crumbled or diced into comfortably forkable pieces
180-200g Fennel, very thinly sliced or shaved into see-through-thin slices on a mandolin
2 Spring Onions, thinly sliced into rings
5-6 Leafy Sprigs of Flatleaf Parsley, finely chopped
8 Tbsp Low-Fat Greek Yoghurt
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1) Place the lemon juice and the olive oil in a large bowl, preferably the one you’re going to serve the salad in later anyways.
2) Add a pinch each of herbed salt, pepper and chilli flakes and stir in the lemon zest along with the lot.
3) Pop in the fennel shaves and spring onion rings and give everything a hearty stir until the fennel is nicely glossed over and dotted with the seasoning.
4) Cover the bowl and set it aside for about an hour – or longer – allowing the fennel to marinade and contribute some of it’s delicious, anise’y juices to the future dressing.
5) After that resting period is over and done with, fold in the freshly chopped herbs and the yoghurt and go through the usual taste-adjust seasoning routine for the dressing.
6) Once you’re satisfied, pop the iceberg ribbons and feta on top of the dressed fennel but don’t stir things up just yet. As long as you only mix the lot through when you’re ready to plate up, the components will stay fresh and crunchy if you keep the bowl covered and chilled in the fridge. Make sure not to wait for longer than 2-3 hours though.
7) Let’s take care of the watermelon. Just a word in advance, the “grilled” part of it is a – very BBQ appropriate – option, absolutely delicious but not a necessity to the salad being delicious and sometimes it’s… not an option at all.
– First and foremost, It all depends on what you’re looking at once you’ve sliced open the melon – if it’s unripe grilling it might help tickle out some flavor. If it’s somewhere in between, grilling it will most likely boost the flavor. If it’s perfectly ripe and is sporting a densely packed, juicy texture, grilling it will take your salad to a new dimension of yumtasticness but you might as well give in to the urge to just take a bite of it as-is. If it’s perfectly ripe and tasty but one of those grainy-textured, seemingly soggy specimen… you’ve lost the melon roulette – it would simply fall apart in the heat, you’re going to have to use it un-grilled. Always keep in mind that you’re pairing it with rather strong, competing flavors in one bowl, so it needs to be perfect, texture- and flavor-wise.
– Secondly, whether you go that extra step depends on the time/effort you want to spend on the prep. Again, if your melon is perfectly ripe and you’re hungry… skip it, I would too.
– And lastly, if you feel like you need to pick up every last bit of flavor of the melon, you could go ahead and compress thick slices (fine cooling rack lined with muslin – melon – muslin – Baking tray – everything you can stack on top and still fit the lot into the fridge) over the course of about 6 hours and then grill them. This is a wonky-melon failsafe, actually a top-notch flavor boost for a melon at any stage of ripeness and… a serious mess. <insert slightly embarassed shuffle here> Do not forget to place some sort of plate/tray or bucket beneath your makeshift melon-press…
– Oh and by the way, of course the glowing embers of a BBQ add another layer of aromas, but a griddle is a fantastic alternative for the gig, one I frequently use to bring a bit of summer to the dead of winter~
Anyways, assuming you have a ripe and tasty melon and a piping hot griddle or BBQ within arm-swinging distance, here’s what you need to do:
8) Place a griddle on high heat or make sure you’ve got some space in the highest-heat area of your BBQ.
9) Cut the melon into halves and place both halves, cutting surfaces down, on your work surface.
10) Slice the watermelon, skin and all, into 1-1 ½ cm thick half-moons. Keeping the skin on at this point will make them easier to maneuver later.
11) You could, should you find yourself in a raging prep-as-much-a-possible-as-far-in-advance-as-possible mood, slice the melon into 2-3cm cubes and slide them, 4-5 at a time, onto skewers instead and tuck them away in the fridge next to the bowl holding your salad~
12) Just before introducing them to the griddle/coals, pat them off with a couple of paper towels to remove some of the excess water.
13) Brush both sides with the tiniest hint of olive oil and pop the melon onto the rack.
14) If all goes well and the melon isn’t a representative of the excessively watery kind, you will be able to discover nicely golden-brown griddle marks on your melon slices after about 2-3 mins.
15) Flip them over to the second side for another 2-3 mins.
16) Once they’re all done and marked up nicely, transfer them back to your cutting board and slice off the skins, or remove the skewers if you’ve used those instead, their job is done.
17) Sprinkle the melon with coarse salt, some chilli flakes and a good crack of black pepper and slice them into comfortably forkable bites.
18) If you’re skipping the surf & turf toppings, plate up while the melon is hot and the salad still cold~
If not, hang on just a liiiiiiitle bit longer and make sure to have someone else manning the coals so you can shamelessly blame them for the delay~
The Optional Surf and/or Turf
Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper, Garlic, Thyme, Chilli
300g Raw King or Black Tiger Prawns, shelled and cleaned
Salt, Pepper, Lime Zest, Chilli, Garlic, Flatleaf Parsley
Hm, I suppose these would perfectly fit into the “non-recipe” section I’ve been thinking about setting up here… you know, recipes that seem so simple you doubt anyone would want to read a post about. “Not rocket science” but something you truly enjoy – and other people keep telling you to write about because, normal to you or not, it’s just too delicious to keep a “secret”. Or stuff you do on auto-pilot while the mother of all hangovers is banging the pots and pans in your head. Combinations or “base” recipes open to impromptu tweaks anytime, anywhere…
Well, if you guys want me to elaborate on one of these quick steps, let me know. Otherwise, welcome to my first “non-recipe”~!
1) If you’re going with the steak on the BBQ, simply brush it with a hint of olive oil and generously salt it on both sides – make sure it’s at room temperature before slapping it onto the coals unless you like your meat burned and raw at the same time.
Pop it onto the BBQ and grill it to 10-5°C below the core temperature you prefer it to be in the end.
In the meantime, add another dab of salt, a generous crack of pepper, 2-3 tbsp of oil, 1 crushed clove of garlic and the leaves of 2-3 sprigs of thyme to a small bowl and whisk the lot until the herbs are evenly distributed throughout the oil.
Once the steaks are done, give them a full-body scrub with the marinade, place them on a warm plate and cover them with tinfoil for their usual R&R before slicing them into ribbons for the showdown.
2) If you’re going with the steaks in a pan or griddle, proceed as above but add a bashed clove of garlic and 2 sprigs of thyme to the pan as the steaks are sizzling away.
3) If the prawns are on your menu as well, marinade them in a blend of olive oil and the ingredients listed above for 4-5 hours before transferring them, marinade and all, into an aluminum tray for the BBQ or a pan of your choice. Grill/griddle/fry them for 3-4 mins until they turn their signature pink-orange, then pile them up on the salad and…