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Published July 09, 2013, 11:55 PM

Home with the Lost Italian: Salad with feta, mint a fresh twist on melon

The dog days of summer have finally arrived, and while we enjoy grilled foods this time of year, it’s also important to serve foods that will help our bodies stay cool.

By: Sarah and Tony Nasello, INFORUM

The dog days of summer have finally arrived, and while we enjoy grilled foods this time of year, it’s also important to serve foods that will help our bodies stay cool.

To that end, watermelon is the star of this week’s featured recipes.

High in water content (92 percent!), watermelons are also loaded with vitamins A, B6, C, and potassium. The high water content provides hydration, while the generous blend of vitamins boosts our immune systems and energy levels.

We love this melon for its bright color, refreshing flavor and versatility, and often have one in our fridge during the summer months. While always good when served plain, cut into quarters or half-moon slices, we’re excited to share a couple of our favorite ways to help you showcase this delicious fruit.

A fun and simple way to enjoy watermelon is a classic Greek recipe for Karpouzi Salata, otherwise known as Watermelon Feta Salad. As its name indicates, this light and pretty summertime salad features watermelon, feta cheese and fresh mint, an herb that helps to ensure every bite is lively and refreshing.

Tony uses a melon-baller to carve the watermelon into one-inch rounds for a refined presentation, but you can also cut one-inch cubes. Feta cheese is a Greek specialty and adds a wonderful, tangy saltiness which blends perfectly with the sweetness of the melon. Feta is sold in small blocks or crumbles in most grocery stores.

To round out this salad, Tony makes a simple vinaigrette of rice wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and black pepper. For added authenticity, the olive oil we use, Mistra Estates, comes from a grove near Sparta, Greece, and is imported locally by our friend and expert on all things Greek, Dr. Peter Schultz. There is a wonderful story here that we’ll have to share with you in the future.

Dress the melon balls with the vinaigrette, lightly toss to coat each ball and refrigerate for no more than two hours, or the watermelon could get mushy from the acid in the vinegar. Add the feta cheese and mint just before serving.

When purchasing watermelon, take time to inspect the fruit for bruises, cuts or dents. The watermelon should be firm, symmetrical and heavy, with a yellow spot on its underside where it sat on the ground. Be sure to wash the watermelon before cutting into it.

We recommend serving Karpouzi Salata with grilled meat, especially lamb, accompanied by a freezing cold shot of Ouzo liqueur and the music of Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis. But make sure to prepare a big batch, because Tony warns this salad can be addictive.

Home with the Lost Italian is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello’s restaurant in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 8-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at dine@sarellos.com. All previous recipes can be found at http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com

Karpoozi Saláta (Watermelon-Feta Salad)

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

4 cups seedless watermelon, cubed or balled (approximately 1-inch pieces)

½ cup feta cheese, crumbled

10 leaves fresh mint, julienne

¼ cup rice wine vinegar

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Put the watermelon balls in a mixing bowl and sprinkle with black pepper, olive oil and rice wine vinegar. Gently stir to incorporate ingredients and then refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving for best results. When ready to serve, plate individually and top each serving with feta cheese and fresh mint.

Tony’s Tips

E It is not necessary to refrigerate before serving, but doing so will enhance the overall result. Do not refrigerate for more than two hours, or the acid from the vinegar will begin to break down the watermelon.

E Use the best extra-virgin olive oil you can find, as it is a central ingredient in the salad.

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