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