Just cause it's salad season doesn't mean you're confined to a bowl of greens with extra stuff on top. I like making different plays on the classic summer tomato, mozzarella and basil caprese by switching up the fruit, cheese and herb. In this instance, I had a whole juicy watermelon, nutty Spanish manchego and an abundance of fresh, peppery farmers market arugula straight from New Jersey.
Feel like converting the salad to hors d'oeuvres? Just skewer alternating cubes of watermelon and manchego and plate on a smear of arugula pesto. Try your own ingredient combinations for easy variation.
I recommend buying a sizable wedge of manchego and cutting your own slices — then you can cut them to your particular specifications and have all this extra manchego to use on grilled summer corn.
For the pesto
- 2 bunches fresh arugula (not pre-washed from a bag), rinsed very well and patted dry
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and quartered
- 1 small handful coarsely chopped walnuts
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 cup olive oil, plus more if needed
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the salad
- 3 1/2-inch thick round slices of a large whole watermelon
- 2 thick slices Spanish manchego cheese, about 1/4 pound total
- Combine the arugula, garlic, walnuts, lemon juice and half the olive oil in a blender. Pulse lightly until incorporated, then drizzle in olive oil and continue to pulse until blended but not completely smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Trim the edges off the watermelon slices to make squares.
- Cut two thick slices of cheese to fit the watermelon squares if using a wedge, otherwise swap steps 2 and 3 and trim watermelon to fit the pre-sliced cheese.
- Plate as follows: watermelon, manchego, pesto, repeat.
- Smear a little extra pesto on the plate before serving.