Watermelon and Feta Salad

Allow me to reminisce a bit today, on this last day of summer. I’ll miss you, naps on the beach and impromptu Game of Thrones dramatic readings in the park (yes, I did voices). Sorry sundresses, it’s time to go back to the back of the closet. Deuces sweat ‘staches — see you again never next year unfortunately.

In an attempt to really live it up on this last weekend of warm weather, Mili and I enjoyed an al fresco happy hour on Friday, which quickly turned into cava at The Smith and then a panic attack at Penny Farthing and then David Chang’s pork buns. Obviously Saturday was a day for recovery, beginning with brunch at Riverpark, Tom Colicchio’s East River-adjacent restaurant and farm.*

Riverpark Farm grows all sorts of vegetables on its 15,000+ square-foot space: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, zucchini and, much to my amusement, square watermelon. Apparently if you grow a watermelon in a box, it will become square — or at least that’s what I heard in my half-conscious state.

Unfortunately, they were only serving regular round watermelon on their brunch menu, topped with salt, lime and merkén, a Chilean spice blend that packs a smoky punch. The combination of sweet, salty, citrusy and spicy was perfection, and I had to recreate it before all of the summer watermelon disappeared.

Since I didn’t have merkén on hand, I decided to combine cayenne and paprika and if you have some on hand, a smoky Spanish pimentón would be lovely here. I also found some feta in the fridge, and since watermelon and feta is a tried and true combination in the blogosphere, I threw that in as well. The end result is a watermelon and feta salad that is a vibrant mix of flavors, one last taste of summer before fall rolls in.

*The farm is a fascinating example of urban gardening, and the restaurant’s synergy with the farm reminded me of my visit to Stone Barns a few years ago. Eating local has long been considered the best way to eat green, and many restaurants have embraced this “farm to table” movement. Mili recently introduced me to the NY Locavore Challenge, which encourages participants to eat only food produced within a 250-mile radius for the entire month of September. She’s signed up for the challenge and will be blogging about it at Meat Mili — definitely check it out!

Watermelon and Feta Salad
Inspired by a starter on the Riverpark brunch menu
Serves 2-3

– 3 cups watermelon, cubed

– juice and zest from 1/2 of a lime

– 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (you can go a touch heavier on this if you want it to be spicier)

– 1/4 teaspoon paprika

– kosher salt, to taste

– 1/4 cup crumbled feta

1) Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Serve immediately, using a slotted spoon (the salt will release some of the watermelon’s moisture, meaning there will be a lot of water at the bottom of the bowl).

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