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I’m not sure why I love throwing summer garden parties so much. It may be because I like to cook barefoot, or because using china and silver in the yard seems both reckless and retro…It may even be because I still love Ricky Nelson’s 1972 “Garden Party” song…even though it’s not about a real garden at all.

But the biggest reason is probably because, for a cook, garden parties are the easiest to throw.

Cold dishes like Almost Orzo are welcome on warm summer nights…

And grilled vegetable dishes are fine hanging around for a couple of hours without being chilled or re-heated…

Even some meat dishes can sit for a bit before being served.

Which means you can make almost everything ahead, set out a bountiful spread on the buffet table as the guests arrive, and then enjoy the party, rather than work it.

One of the prettiest, tastiest and skinniest dishes that I always invite to my summer buffet table is Watermelon, Cucumber Salad with Feta and Mint. A riff on Nigela Lawson’s Watermelon, Feta and Olive Salad, this one has much with less cheese and oil and, with super low calorie cucumber standing in for half the watermelon, has half the calories and sugar.

So next time you have a garden party to reminisce with your old friends, crank up Ricky, kick off your shoes and toss this…

Watermelon, Cucumber Salad with Feta and Mint

1 small red onion,  thinly sliced

5 Persian cucumbers, half peeled and sliced (or 2 English cucumbers, seeded.)

1 small seedless watermelon, cut into cubes

1 handful chopped fresh mint

2 T fig infused vinegar

2 T crumbled feta cheese

black pepper to taste.

Slice the onion and let it soak in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes to take the edge off.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel every other strip of skin from the cucumber, seed and slice it, toss in a colander with salt and set it in the sink to drain.

Remove the rind from the watermelon, cut into 2 to 3 inch pieces and toss in a big pretty bowl.

Rinse the cucumbers and drain the onions, blot both dry with a paper towel and add to the melon.

Sprinkle the fig vinegar on all and toss with your hands to coat.

Add feta and mint and gently toss again. Grind a bit of black pepper on top to taste.


No Fig Balsamic? No problem, use the juice of 2 limes, instead…and do add in the zest.. it’s very, well, zesty…

Or, take a cue from Nigella Lawson and add a handful of chopped parsley and some black olives.

You could also add heirloom tomatoes when they come into season. Just let them drain a bit first so their juices don’t overwhelm the dish.


About Lisa McRee

After 25 years as a local and network anchor, Lisa was just another American mother struggling, and failing, to lose weight. Finally, she cracked the code, and lost 30 pounds, quickly and for good, by doing what she loves: reporting, cooking and eating! The Skinny is the inside story on how she did it, and how you can, too!
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