yellow bowl with watermelon salad, next to icy drink, on green and white striped tray outside

Watermelon Salad with Feta & Cucumber

 

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Until a few days ago, it had been unbelievably warm in Portland. As always happens here in June, the cold rain inserted its annoying self into our premature summer groove. Regardless, the couple weeks of heat that we did have got me in the mood for something cold and refreshing to eat. However, I can’t take all the credit for this recipe. My boyfriend (the chef) made a slightly different version of it for dinner one night, introducing it as his go-to summer meal. Well, aside from the fact that we accidentally bought fat-free feta and it was absolutely disgusting (lol), the salad was amazing. And he gave me his blessing to share it with y’all, with some of my alterations.

WATERMELON SALAD!

Because we have officially entered watermelon season, I’m definitely looking for ways to use watermelon in a mealtime dish. While eating slices of watermelon on a hot day is refreshing and delicious, it’s great to find other ways to eat watermelon. AIso, because even a small watermelon produces so much, you gotta find other things to go with all that melon! The combo of the sweetness of watermelon and the saltiness of feta is unparalleled, I think. Add some refreshing cucumber and peppery arugula, and the meal is perfect. And since the salad might not be the most filling on its own, we added some protein, as well.

watermelon cut in half on cutting board

DOIN’ THE CHICKEN

The way my boyfriend prepares the chicken is to marinate, briefly grill on a grill pan (stovetop), and then bake. While it’s nice to get a little browning on the chicken, I thought this might be too many steps for our 28 minute promise. So, our recipe calls for a marinade and bake.

Even though it’s only for 10 minutes, the marinade really makes a difference. Because the pieces are so small, they are able to soak in the flavor and juiciness of the marinade. Now, don’t be freaked about by the prospect of pickle juice. The chicken won’t taste like pickles. Lol. Rather, you end up with more flavorful, evenly salted, juicy chicken bites in the end.

As far as cooking options go, you could either panfry the chicken or oven-bake the chicken. I baked it…not even sure why I chose that route. I actually think it’s faster and easier to panfry. My Mom cooked the chicken stovetop in a pan with 2 T of butter, and it took roughly 5 minutes (half the time as baking). Totally your call.

STEP 1: MARINATE THE CHICKEN

woman in pink shirt pouring pickle juice over chicken in clear bowl, to marinate it

STEP 2: MAKE THE DRESSING

woman in pink shirt whisking a salad dressing in a pyrex measuring cup, with a fork

STEP 3: COOK THE CHICKEN

putting rimmed baking sheet with chicken pieces in oven

STEP 4: ASSEMBLE SALAD

yellow bowl with watermelon salad, ice drink, and slices of watermelon on green and white tray outside

MODIFY THE SALAD

You can make this vegetarian very simply, by just eliminating the chicken. To be honest, for me the chicken was an after thought. I didn’t originally intend to include chicken, but I know that some people love to have a protein in their salad. 

Really, the ingredient I was most excited to work with was watermelon. Everything else is whatever you want! Watermelon-cucumber-feta-arugula-chicken is the combo that my boyfriend loves. I can also see this salad being delicious swapping or adding spinach, basil, avocado, red onion, green goddess dressing, pepitas, pine nuts, etc.

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have a family cooking session

Worth considering is how this might be the perfect time to invite kids to help out in the kitchen (assuming everyone is healthy and properly washing their hands!). We are all spending so much time together at home these days. So, why not make cooking a family activity?! Not only will cooking together help pass the time, but cooking with your kids has some real educational benefits. For example, cooking with kids can boost self-esteem and foster healthy eating habits.

How kids can help make this WATERMELON SALAD:

This salad involves many kid-friendly tasks. Here are some ways for your lil’ sous chefs to help out:

  • Measuring! Showing your kids how to measure ingredients, using spoon and cup fractions, is a bonafide, simple math lesson. Don’t pass up that opportunity. The salad dressing requires the use of T, t, and 1/4 t spoons. Explain what a 1/4 t means, and also the fact that 3t = 1T. Then let your kids do the whole dressing step on their own.

    Woman in pink shirt leaning on counter with pyrex measuring cup, holding 3 measuring spoons

  • Chop cucumbers and watermelon! We let our kids use a kitchen knife designed for kids, and chop away. An adult should definitely cut the watermelon gourd, but kids can take over once the watermelon is broken down into smaller segments. Here are our fave knives that we always use:

    different brands of kids kitchen knives, vegetable peelers, and snippers laid out on a green placement

  • Use colorful measuring tools! I really love our 9 piece Joseph Joseph nesting bowl set because it’s rainbow colored, which my daughter loves. And it includes a big bowl, small bowl, bowl with pouring lip, mesh strainer, colander, 1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/3 cup, and 1 T. [Worth noting: this bowl set is currently double its normal price, so maybe wait until COVID buying panic has subsided a bit].

    Big brown bog sitting by a 9 piece rainbow nesting bowl set

Final Tips To ensure smooth sailing!

Mimi’s Cooking Tips:woman with blonde hair and purple blouse smiling and leaning on kitchen counter

Tips from our in-house expert/Mom...

    🍅 Taste the dressing before your pour it. If you taste too much vinegar, adjust the ratios. Make it how you want. You can also add salt, ditch the mustard, whatever you like!

    🍅 How much dressing you want can be a very personal decision. Haha. Either pour it very slowly over the salad (too little is better than too much), and add more if needed; or have each person dress his/her own salad.

    🍅 Bake or panfry the chicken. It’s up to you! Baking requires preheating the oven, spraying a cooking sheet, and about 10 minutes of cooking. Panfrying requires heating a pan, adding some butter or oil, and cooking for 5 minutes.

    🍅 To save even more time, buy pre-cooked chicken and/or pre-cut watermelon. While it’s nice to say we did everything from scratch, who really cares?! Pre-cooked chicken is also a game changer is you don’t want to cook at all.

    OUR “kidify” Tips:child sitting at table unhappy with arms folded

    Have picky eaters? Check out these tips...

      🍅 Separate the parts! My sister’s kids ate the salad, but only when the chicken, greens and veggies were separated on their plates. And no dressing.

      🍅 Make little salad bites! Pretend this is a little, alcohol-free cocktail party for your kids (lol) and stack a piece of watermelon, cucumber, and feta on a toothpick. The other bites could have chicken and arugula. The kids will have more fun eating this way, and they could even dip it in the dressing if feeling adventurous.

       

      Watermelon Salad with Feta & Cucumber
      Total Time
      28 mins
       

      A watermelon salad with feta & cucumber is the most refreshing ease into summertime. Make an icy cold drink, and sit outside with this delicious salad!

      Course: Main Course
      Keyword: arugula salad, quick, summer salad, watermelon salad
      Servings: 4
      BUY IT
      • 2 lbs chicken thighs (cut into bite-sized pieces)
      Marinade
      • 2 cups pickle juice (or less)
      • 2 t garlic salt
      • 1 t salt
      Dressing
      Salad
      • cooking spray
      • 4 cups arugula
      • 1 1/2 cups cucumber (chopped into cubes or quarter chunks)
      • 1 1/2 cups watermelon (chopped into small cubes)
      • 1/3 cup crumbled feta (plus extra for garnish)
      MAKE IT
      1. Heat oven to 350. Meanwhile, put your cut chicken into a large bowl. Add marinade ingredients (pickle juice, garlic salt & salt) and mix altogether. Set aside for 10 minutes.

      2. Now make the dressing. In a pyrex measurement cup or small bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard & pepper. Set aside.

      3. Once the chicken is done marinating, coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Remove chicken from bowl, using a slotted spoon, and place on pan, spread out. Bake chicken for 10 minutes (chicken should read as at least 165 degrees in order to be cooked through).

      4. In a large bowl, toss arugula, chopped cucumber, chopped watermelon, feta, and chicken. Then add dressing in slowly, choosing your amount. Toss more, and serve.

      PLATE IT

      Serve salad in bowls or plates, with extra feta crumbled on top.

       

      We recommend that all meals for young children be served with milk.

       

      yellow bowl with watermelon salad, ice drink, and slices of watermelon on green and white tray outside

       

       

      What Can Kids do While Grown-ups Cook?

       

      OTHER Salad DISHES YOU MIGHT LIKE:

      🍅 Avocado Ranch Chopped Salad

      🍅 Three Bean Salad

      🍅 Bowtie Pasta Salad

       

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