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.
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…
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.
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.
PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD:
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.