Watermelon and Fennel Salad

by Jenn on June 18, 2011

in Diabetic Friendly,Gluten Free,Salads,Vegetarian

watermelon_diptych1

Until recently, I didn’t know anyone did anything with a watermelon besides just cut it up and eat it.  I mean, it’s already completely sweet, juicy, the pure essence of Summer, why mess with perfection embodied in this pink fruit?  Even the mere sight of a ripe watermelon evokes memories of childhoods past. For me personally, I see weeks at girl scout camp, running around outside, carefree, swimming in the lake, making new friends, riding horses… you get the idea.

But why not play, and see just where the flavor of this fruit can go?  Have you ever thought about the flavors in our favorite Summertime snack and how they would meld with other foods? I certainly hadn’t until Meeta challenged us Plate to Page alumni to photograph watermelon as a fun photography assignment – two photos – one raw, and one in a dish – a dish? who puts watermelon in things?  Ha – maybe it was time to change my perspective a bit and open my eyes to the possibilities one could cook up :)

Perspective is a funny thing.  Sometimes our first impressions have such a profound effect on us that we forget to look for the other possibilities right in front of us.  I think that’s why I like to go for walks and hikes – because all that time away from everything gives my mind space to think and breathe.  And sometimes, I even get to get lost and freak out after sitting at a train station for 30 minutes until I figure out that the train only passes through on weekdays…

Near Palézieux

But no matter – getting lost is good for staying grounded.  For realizing that there’s more to the world than what merely existed previously in your mind, and that a little adventure and spontaneity are good for the soul.  But it’s good for adjusting your perspective too, literally and figuratively. Getting lost with my husband hiking was a fun excursion (and a good chance for us to practice some more français with the locals), but I also got to see my favorite mountains – those Alps (which may or may not be in the photo above, I’m not quite sure where the Alps end and plain old mountains begin, I tend to call all the mountains off to the South here the Alps), which have taught me so much about life, the world, and my place in it, from a whole new side.

Normally, we try to get as close to the mountains as we can – our hikes often commence from the very place where they rise up out of the Earth and display their natural wonder. From this vantage point, standing in their shadows, all one sees are the towering cliffs above, waterfalls streaming down to the land at our feet as we walk by the gurgling river that meanders through the valley it may have helped to carve. It’s not a bad place to admire a mountain range :)

Stechelberg, Lauterbrunnen Valley

And yet if one gets up close and personal with the Alps, taking the trains and ski lifts to the top, one sees a vast array of topography and a completely different view – the mountains are no longer giant walls but wise old friends, who show you that your beautiful valley is just one of many, and all of a sudden rather small against their towering form that kisses the very heavens:

View from Birg

But even closer to home they never quite leave the mind.  From the rolling hills en Vaud, the Swiss Alps become but a faint blue memory on the horizon – the real star of the scene is what is green, luscious, and full of life – the mountains, a mere whisper in the haze behind the clouds.  Here all is warm, vibrant, soaking up the precious sunlight and blanketing the land in a sea of emerald.

Lavaux Region Lavaux Region

And yet those mountains are still there – even in the distant background, they are ever present – the manner in which they are perceived however just depends on your perspective – can one ever truly know a thing by seeing it through the only paradigm one is accustomed to using for making sense of the world?  What if we change our perspective, and try to look at the familiar with new eyes – then, what do we see?

With the mountains, I learn that I can see so many sides of beauty from such varying points of view – each one majestic and unique, but all still those same gorgeous Alps – but the same can be done for food as well.  Take our familiar Summer watermelon, for instance – it is sweet and bright, we all know this, but would it match with other flavors? Could we actually make a dish out of it, blended with other tastes of the season?

I decided to try, pairing with fennel, whose anise notes I think go rather well with something sugary, and a little garlic & herbed goat cheese to help balance things out.  A little fresh mint, olive oil, salt and pepper and I had myself a watermelon salad I wouldn’t have thought to try in a million years.  But you know what? It worked.  And it worked well – I bought myself more fennel just to use up the other half of the watermelon, I loved it so much.  And this salad was different – it didn’t conjure the usual memories of running around in sprinklers on hot days in the sunshine, no this was a bit more understated – a new perspective for a familiar food, and one I think I am realizing that I like a lot – because sometimes it’s good to try things a little differently for a change – and perfection can have many forms :)

Watermelon, Fennel & Goat Cheese Salad

Also submitted to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays and Gluten Free Wednesdays

Interested in some other great watermelon ideas? Check out the rest of the Plate to Page alumni’s watermelon pics on the Plate to Page facebook page, and for the recipes check out these lovely blog posts:

Arthi – Watermelon Feta & Pumpkin Seed Salad
Astrid – Watermelon Cocktails
Ilva – Watermelon & Cucumber Mojito
Meeta – Minty Peach & Watermelon Salad
Móna – Móna’s Melon Martini
Simone  – Watermelon Sorbet Ice Cream

{ 65 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa June 18, 2011 at 1:39 am

Oh, Jenn…your photos of the Alps are breathtaking, and just the place where I would love to enjoy your watermelon – fennel salad. So refreshing and lovely, and the perfect salad for a picnic – a picnic within and surrounded by all that beauty :)

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Jenn June 18, 2011 at 1:43 am

Aww thanks Lisa! I was not so coordinated to actually bring the salad with me on our hike (actually I think the only food we brought with us is cheese haha) – but I have definitely scoped out some awesome picnic locations for future trips!

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Rosa June 18, 2011 at 1:39 am

A gorgeous salad! That combination is very tasty. One can make great salads with watermelon.

Splendid Lavaux shots!

cheers,

Rosa

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Jenn June 18, 2011 at 1:42 am

Thanks so much Rosa! :)

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Tiffany June 18, 2011 at 1:47 am

WOW! This salad must be bursting with flavor! And I love that the fennel is grilled!

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Jenn June 18, 2011 at 1:53 am

Thanks! I don’t actually own a grill, so I just seared them on high heat – I think it worked well enough though :)

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Karriann Graf June 18, 2011 at 2:52 am

Yes, different is good at times! I’d never think of pairing watermelon and fennel, but can’t wait to try now. Happy Cooking!

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Jenn June 18, 2011 at 10:39 am

Thanks, hope you enjoy it!

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Astrid June 18, 2011 at 1:01 pm

oh I love that salad you made. I might even try to make it tho I am not a fennel lover myself.

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Jenn June 18, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Thanks Astrid! I think by searing the fennel it helps to tone down the anise flavor a bit so it’s not so overpowering…

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Joan Nova June 18, 2011 at 1:46 pm

I’ve had watermelon salad with cheese(s) and black olives but not fennel. I think it was a genius pairing and can’t wait to try it. By the way, I thoroughly enjoyed the storytelling and visuals of your discovery.

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Jenn June 18, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Thanks so much!! This was the first time I’d tried them both together, was really happy with the result!

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Radhika June 18, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Jenn,
Never thought of watermelon beyond devouring them as slices. I have some idea now :)
Stunning pictures of the Alps! Mountains have a way of calming you, right? Picture with the stream and mountains on the side is my favorite.. Can almost hear the rhythm of the flowing water in it..
Hope I get to see the Alps some day..

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Jenn June 18, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Aww thanks so much!! The Alps are gorgeous – I def. have fallen in love with the mountains…

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Becki June 18, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Beautiful photos! The one of the creek is just breathtaking.

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Jenn June 18, 2011 at 9:10 pm

Thanks so much!

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Kulsum at JourneyKitchen June 18, 2011 at 8:11 pm

I love a good watermelon and look for savory recipes as summer arrives. This looks lovely!

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Jenn June 18, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Thanks so much Kulsum!!

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Christina June 18, 2011 at 11:38 pm

This was a seriously lovely post, Jenn — both the photos, and your perspective (no pun intended). Thanks for sharing!

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Jenn June 19, 2011 at 8:49 am

Thanks Christina!

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alauna June 19, 2011 at 2:55 am

yum – that first shot of the watermelon is great!! i always love your food shots :)

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Jenn June 19, 2011 at 8:51 am

Thanks Alauna!

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Barbara | Creative Culinary June 19, 2011 at 3:47 am

Watermelon Smatermelon. I mean it looks good and all, really Jenn but those photos are seriously some of my most favorite of yours, EVAH. I just love your new plates. Would you catch some of those for me next time?

Hmm…Alps or Ohio? Hmm, thinking. But not TOO hard. :)

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Jenn June 19, 2011 at 8:49 am

Oh thank you, you are too sweet!! Ha I bought all of the pewter plates I could find – I think they are so much more interesting than white plates….

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Rivki Locker (Ordinary Blogger) June 19, 2011 at 5:06 am

What beautiful photos, of both the food and the scenery. I am like you – I always eat watermelon unadorned. But this looks like a wonderful way to enjoy it. Love the combination of flavors and colors.

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Jenn June 19, 2011 at 8:52 am

Thanks so much! Now I want to find other ways to eat watermelon – see what other foods it goes with, I feel like a whole new flavor option has been opened up to me haha.

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dario @ foodpixels June 19, 2011 at 9:30 am

Props, pRopSS, props, pROPs….Nice:)

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Jenn June 19, 2011 at 9:35 am

Thanks Dario!

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InTolerantChef June 19, 2011 at 12:15 pm

I love the photo of the ancient mountains with the modern plane trails above them. The recipe is a great mix too, try watermelon with hallumi or fetta, it goes great with salt flavours.

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Jenn June 19, 2011 at 12:34 pm

oooh halloumi sounds like it would be perfect to try! will def. have to try more cheeses with watermelon…

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arthi June 19, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Absolutely love all yr pics Jen!

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Jenn June 19, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Aww thanks Arthi!

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Kindred Spirit June 19, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Stunning!!! I don’t think I’ve ever seen such lovely scenic shots from you before…so happy for this blog hop, as I’ll be following you now :D & wow, that salad looks incredibly yummy!

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Jenn June 19, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Thanks so much!!!

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ilva June 19, 2011 at 6:39 pm

great photos and the props-I LOVE them!

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Jenn June 19, 2011 at 6:41 pm

Aww thanks Ilva!!

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meeta June 20, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Breathtaking nature shots Jenn! Like you walking gives me a new preceptive on many things and clears the head for the new. Love this salad – fennel is one of my favorite vegetables but I have yet to pair it with watermelon. Delicious idea!

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Jenn June 20, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Thanks so much Meeta! yep, besides taking photos, the meditative zen that happens is one of my favorite reasons for hiking :)

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The Cilantropist June 20, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Ahh…. your watermelon and fennel post! So many more great shots including the one you previewed on twitter, and I am loving the nature shots from the Alps, just breathtaking! :)

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Jenn June 20, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Aww thank you!!! :)

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Radhika @ foodfor7stages June 20, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Those lush green mountains, beautiful stream reminded me that I always loved to live in such places and now I have got lost in the hustle bustle of city life. Breathtaking pics Jenn and I totally second you on perspective. Just thinking differently or looking at things differently gives a new meaning to our life.

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Jenn June 20, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Thank you so much – I’ve learned so much by spending time outside with nature and getting a chance to clear my head and think – and those mountains – how can I not be inspired? Don’t think I can ever get tired of looking at them :)

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Lori June 20, 2011 at 7:52 pm

So much beauty in this post. The visual buffet you create with each shot really feeds my soul. I have been lucky enough to have stood below and on top of the Alps once before. The way they contrast with the sky and emerald green patchwork is exquisite, and you’ve captured it beautifully. And your watermelon and fennel salad is nothing short of a visual stunner! I can tell it’s going to be one of those things I can’t get out of my mind until I try it.

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Jenn June 20, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Thank you so much – I love the green patchwork that stretches across the landscape… and I feel so incredibly lucky to be near such amazing views – def. trying my best to absorb as much as I can while I am here!

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K June 20, 2011 at 8:24 pm

What a fantastic recipe and such glorious photos. I love watermelon and I love fennel, but have never tried the two together – can’t wait.

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Jenn June 20, 2011 at 8:43 pm

Thanks!

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Barbara June 21, 2011 at 3:11 am

The salad looks delicious. I definitely need to try it. Your photos of the alps are all so beautiful, but the one with the stream really took my breath away.

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Jenn June 21, 2011 at 7:25 am

Oh thanks!

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pam June 21, 2011 at 8:27 pm

holy cow, those watermelon pictures are gorgeous! i mean, i love watermelon, but these reminded me i really need to stop at the store on the way home to pick one up.

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Jenn June 22, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Thanks! Enjoy your watermelon!

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Liisa June 22, 2011 at 1:20 am

Your pictures are gorgeous and this salad was absolutely fantastic! Thanks so much for the inspiration :)

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Jenn June 22, 2011 at 1:24 am

Aww thank you! So happy you enjoyed it :)

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John June 24, 2011 at 5:28 pm

There’s this catering lake norman company that did a great job making this salad for me. I gave them the recipe right off of this site and they added it to my catering menu. It turned out great and was a huge hit. Thanks!

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Jenn June 24, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Oh cool, glad it went over so well!

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angela@spinachtiger June 25, 2011 at 1:30 am

An awesome post of food and pictures. I too have stepped out into new arena with watermelon, searing it and serving with scallops or searing with blackberry glaze. Who knew watermelon had so many faces?

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Jenn June 25, 2011 at 9:15 am

Oh I want to hear more about that blackberry glaze…. yes this year watermelon has definitely surprised me with its versatility, who knew? :)

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Junia @ Mis Pensamientos June 25, 2011 at 6:06 am

oh my, two of my latest obsessions in one salad. LOVE this!!!!

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Jenn June 25, 2011 at 9:16 am

Thanks :)

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Jennifer June 25, 2011 at 7:43 am

Your photos are wonderful, as always, and, also per the norm, your food sounds amazing! I don’t care for watermelon, but I do like fennel…can’t wait to give this salad a try! I think I am now craving watermelon, so out of character for me.

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Jenn June 25, 2011 at 9:17 am

ha awesome! I hope you like it!

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Jeanne @ CookSister! June 28, 2011 at 6:01 pm

An absolutely ghorgeous post Jen – I love nothing better than the Alps in summer – we were in Chamonix in summer a few years back and those mountain walks were one of my favourite memories ever. The picture of the stream is drop-dead stunning. I am also intrigued by the watermelon fennel flavour pairing!

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Jenn June 28, 2011 at 11:54 pm

Thanks Jeanne! I haven’t been to Chamonix yet, definitely on my list of places to visit…

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Vera July 11, 2011 at 12:00 am

Hi Jenn, I love your recipes and your photos. Your inspiring blog helped me so much on learning how to
cook all over again without gluten. Thank you!!!
I used to live in Biel for a while and now back in California, so I enjoy seeing again the pretty scenery
through your beautiful shots.
I’ve noticed that the chemtrails are also present on the Swiss skies by looking one of your photos (B&W).
What are they spraying on us????
Fondly,
Vera

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Jenn July 11, 2011 at 12:03 am

Thank you!! So far all I’ve seen of Biel is the train station…will have to actually visit the city sometime :) As for the trails in the sky, I always figured they were just from planes that happened to be flying overhead…

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Tika Hapsari Nilmada July 20, 2011 at 1:08 am

Hi Jenn..thanks for submitting your photo to DMBLGiT July 2011. Wishing you good luck !

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