Summer and watermelon go hand in hand for many of us here in the US. And watermelon is a versatile fruit, however it usually just gets eaten in the most basic manner – freshly sliced. When you want to spruce it up a bit, this Spicy Grilled Watermelon Salad will really get your taste buds excited. It’s sweet, salty, savory and spicy all in one salad and it makes the perfect side dish for your summer BBQ.
What’s in this Watermelon Salad?
If you think at first glance that watermelon, jalapeños, tomatoes and feta can’t possibly work, think again! We spent some time balancing the flavors and testing this one and it’s an absolute winner! Also, the way the ingredients are cut is purposeful here. Below we go into more detail on the cuts and why we choose Calphalon Precision Self-Sharpening Knives to ensure we have perfectly sliced, diced, and chopped components.
That’s right! We grilled the watermelon! Grilling the melon for a brief time does a few things that help this recipe. First, it removes a bit of excess water that would just end up in the bottom of the dish.
Second, some of the sugars get caramelized so the sweetness and watermelon flavors are enhanced.
Finally, the grill marks have a great eye-appeal that is not usually associated with watermelon. If you are fortunate enough to find yellow-fleshed watermelon to add with the traditional red, you’ll get even more brilliance in this dish.
Don’t own a grill or the weather isn’t great for grilling? No need to worry! We often use our Calphalon Premier™ Nonstick 11-Inch Square Grill Pan and it works perfectly!
Lime Juice Marinated Jalapeños
The jalapeños may seem like the most daunting addition, but they are incredibly flavorful in this dish and not too spicy at all. We slice them thinly and soak them in lime juice for 15-30 minutes as we cut up everything else. That really changes the flavor and reacts well with the jalapeño flesh taking away the overpowering spice level that may have been there before.
Peeled and Diced Tomatoes
The tomatoes are peeled and diced – lending just enough acidity, along with the lime juice, to balance the salad.
The salty element is some diced feta, which brings a complimentary flavor that rounds out the overall taste profile.
Fine Diced Fresno Peppers
Fine diced Fresno peppers are not just throw-ins. The Fresno peppers are not spicy, nor are they added to the lime juice with the jalapeño. Therefore, when diced small, they add a textural component of a bit of crunch as well as some flavor and a bright red color.
The mint is finely chopped and is noticeable in these quantities but not overpowering. Mint brightens most things up if used correctly and enhances some of the sweetness as well with the watermelon. We finely chop most of it and save a few mint leaves to garnish the salad for a beautiful presentation.
The last ingredient, which is used judiciously, is balsamic vinegar. This ingredient provides depth and is one of the invisible things in a dish that you may not be able to explicitly pick out, but it sure does add the finishing touch.
Do the cuts matter in this salad?
They do if you want it to look great and get the most out of each bite of this salad. Every knife has a purpose and, although the chef’s knife is the most used and the most important knife in any collection, there is always a best tool for the job, so we will often use more than 3 or 4 knives when preparing any meal even if it isn’t very complex.
Knives we use for Dicing
We diced four different ingredients in this one and sliced the jalapeños. The four dices are also four different sizes to bring contrasting cubes and a nice visual display. The watermelon are large cubes, the feta medium, the tomatoes were small dice and the Fresno peppers were fine dice. It’s not difficult to spend an extra few minutes making nice knife cuts, so you’ll be rewarded if you do!
Specifically for dicing, it makes the most sense to use the right tool for the job. Think of dice in a classical sense here meaning large dice at ¾”, medium dice at ½”, small dice at ¼”, fine dice (brunoise) at 1/8” and fine brunoise at 1/16”.
It doesn’t make a lot of sense to use a large chef’s knife for fine brunoise as the knife itself is too thick to do the job properly. And using a paring knife for large dice of watermelon? No way! It’s pretty much common sense, right?
Our Knife Set
To achieve those perfect cuts we turn to our Calphalon Precision Self-Sharpening Knives. The set comes with 15 pieces to ensure that you have the right knife for any and all cuts. Even better, the knife block has SharpIN™ technology featuring built-in ceramic sharpeners so your knives are always sharp and ready for action!
For the larger cuts in this recipe, we turn to the Calphalon Precision 8” Chef’s Knife. We love a paring knife, like the Calphalon Precision 3.5” Paring Knife, for small items like the Fresno peppers here, but it is also great for dicing things like garlic or shallots.
The 6” Utility Knife comes in handy for things in between, such as the feta and tomatoes in this recipe, but it is especially nice for smaller dice of onions and even things like potatoes or carrots. Either way, beware of anyone who tells you all you need is a chef’s knife as even professional chefs know better than to only use one knife for everything.
We hope you enjoy this Spicy Grilled Watermelon Salad Recipe! If you give it a try, leave us a comment below or tag us on Instagram @cooking_with_wine!
If you like this recipe, try out some of our other favorite summer recipes below: