Monday, May 26, 2014

Watermelon, Jicama, & Strawberry Salad with Balsamic Reduction


Hope you had a fabulous Memorial Day weekend stateside.  Mine included the standard American share of BBQed meats, eaten in excess, in good company.  I've been trying to the whole "take back the weekend!" thing, and if I've been succeeding at anything, it's been that.  Loyalists may have noted that I took last weekend off from blogging, and I'm sorry to say that made things a bit more relaxing as I slide into summer.

This afternoon, however, was one big (queue the screeching record) failure in the relaxation department.  People do household projects on long weekends, and I thought, "Hey, I'm a person," forgetting I'm not a household project person.  You see, ever since the murder of a backyard tree that was our glorious green summer canopy the back porch has been severely lacking in any ambiance.  Before the murder the back porch was once an English garden oasis that shielded us from the major interstate highway that is otherwise our porch view (plus a small sliver of the grand Chicago skyline).  After mourning the tree for years, Garrett and I finally got the gumption to head to Home Depot for some potted shrubs and blooms to spruce the place up again.  The first trip was a great success, and high on our green thumb abilities we went back a second time with more ambitious goals that included resoiling and outdoor lighting.   The third trip we trudged back, tails between our legs, to return half our rather expensive bounty and settle on the original hoard, plus lighting (that we never got to hang thanks to rain).  In short, three trip to Home Depot a relaxing day does not make.

But I did make some watermelon salad.  It's a nice little refreshing treat for any summer BBQ or dinner out on a well-groomed porch.  The watermelon and goat cheese thing isn't new, but I funned it up with some jicama and strawberries.  Those are totally optional.  I will say, if you are planning to transport this or prepare it ahead of time, take my word for it and leave off the cheese and dressing until just prior to serving.  Better yet, keep them off to the side and let your guests and co-partiers add them before eating.  Otherwise, the balsamic will just turn the whole thing a brownish color.  Part of the appeal of the salad is the bright colors that make it so fun for summer, so don't go ruining it like I did!

Ingredients (makes 1 very large bowl, enough for a BBQ or party):
  • 1/2 large, seedless watermelon
  • 1/2 large jicama (optional)
  • 12 large strawberries
  • 1/8 cup chopped mint leaves
  • 1/8 cup chopped basil leaves
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 - 2/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 2 cups balsamic vinegar

To dice the watermelon, I sliced the half into two quarters, and then sliced off 1/2" crescent-shaped slabs.  Slice the slab into 1/2" strips, and then into cubes.
Dice the jicama into slightly smaller cubes, and slice up the strawberries.
Toss the cut watermelon, jicama, and strawberries with the chopped mint, basil, and lemon juice.
In a large pot, bring the balsamic vinegar to a simmer.  Allow it to simmer until it is thick enough to coat a spoon (about 20 minutes).  The liquid will have reduced by about half.  When ready to serve stir in the crumbled goat cheese.  Drizzle the balsamic reduction on top just before eating.

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