August 16, 2013

A wonderful 1940s way with watermelon salad

Watermelon and summer go hand-in-suntanned-hand like winter and hot cocoa, spring and chocolate eggs, and autumn and pumpkin pie. They're a longstanding, hugely beloved favourite pairing the world over and though certain modern cookery writers might have you believe that they invented watermelon salads (Nigella's thoroughly scrumptious watermelon, feta, and black olive salad spring to mind in this regard), such – as we’ll see today – is certainly not the case.

It's a safe bet to say that watermelon is most often eaten in it's natural state, be it room temperate or pleasing chilled, but that doesn't mean it's a stranger to being used in recipes either. From sorbets to margaritas, jams to smoothies, the creative uses for this immensely refreshing fruit are nearly limitless.

I adore watermelon, though it's been tricky (as with most fruits) for me to eat for numerous years now, I still indulge in a small portion periodically during the summer months - how can one not, when a good, sweet, lip-lickingly juicy watermelon tastes better than any candy and is packed with oodles of vitamin C, vitamin A, and lycopene?

Without a doubt, one of my favourite ways to enjoy watermelon is in a salad, be it sweet or savory, the later of which I've been making a pasta salad with involving a honey and blood orange dressing for years now, as well as a mixed greens gem that involves chives and grilled chicken. I'm also a huge fan of the aforementioned pairing of feta, olive and watermelon, and have yet to serve that combination to anyone who didn't instantly go gaga for it.

While recently perusing one of my most beloved vintage ad and recipe websites, Found in Mom's Basement, I came across an intriguing sounding recipe from 1947 for a spice filled dressing to be partnered with melon salad. Interestingly, Wesson oil didn't name this dressing or recipe as a whole, so I've decided to dub it Summery Citrus and Watermelon Salad in a Mustard Paprika Dressing.

{If you don't have one already, why not invest in a melon baller so that you can make picture perfect balls of fruit like those shown in today's charming 1940s watermelon salad recipe? Image source.}

Now, I'm the first to admit that watermelon and mustard are not a pairing I've often craved in the same forkful, but it's sometimes the curious flavour combinations that prove to be the most delicious, so the next time we pick up a watermelon, I think I'll give this forties side dish a spin.

If you're squarely against the idea of the two together - may I first suggest ditching the dry mustard and replacing both it and some of the oil with your favourite (store bought or homemade) honey mustard dressing?

Still not a fan, then scrap it entirely, perhaps subbing in a bit more citrus juice and peel. I love the taste of onions and watermelon together, so I'd also suggest trying some tender green onions, thinly sliced shallots, or red onions here as well. Should you happen to be a fan of radishes, I also find they - to borrow a phrase from my friends in the UK - go down a treat with watermelon.

This salad would be splendid made with honeydew, cantaloupe, or casaba melon (the later of which is usually very melon in flavour, thus making it great for recipes where you don't want the melon taste to dominate the dish). You could also try it with apples, peaches, nectarines, grapes, or even pineapple, just depending on your tastes and what's in season.

Hard as it may be to believe, we're now half way through August and just a little over a month away from the official end of summer, which is all the more reason to skittle down to the nearest grocery store or farmer's market (should you happen to be lucky enough to live somewhere with locally grown melon) and pick yourself up another watermelon or two while they're still at the peak of their season.

Serve it up in a fun salad, skewered on a fruit kebab, chopped up in a salsa, simply as is, or any other way your heart desires. The secret isn't so much in how you serve watermelon during the summer, but rather that you dish it up and savour its succulent flavour point blank - just remember to keep a stack of napkins handy to help wipe up all that fabulous juice when you do! :)


  1. I love watermelon, too, and am impressed at the creative ways many chefs are serving it. I absolutely had to try a Grilled Watermelon salad recently just to see how in the world you grill watermelon (without it melting) and what it tastes like. It was tasty and fun, grill-marks and all. Super idea for a blog-post.

  2. Im wondering if this would be better with cantaloupe instead of watermelon?

    1. It could very well be - especially if you lucked out and had a really good cantaloupe (we had one last week - yum!). One could even try a mix of the two, if so inclined.

      Big hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

  3. I love melon salad! I love finding old recipes! Thanks for sharing and have the loveliest weekend!!

  4. I loooooooooooove watermelon....and not just because of their prominent part in my favourite movie, Dirty Dancing! :P Funnily enough, though, I'm struggling to think of a time that I have eaten it in a savoury salad - this is most definitely going to have to be remedied. I think I will try the watermelon/feta combo this weekend. Thanks for the recipe suggestions!

  5. YUM! Watermelon is one of my favorite things to eat! Especially coming from the south. You can get the most juicey, sweet watermelons ever. My mom would cut them into cubes and freeze them like popsicles! YUM!!!

    I love the suggestions for serving the salad and dressing. Worth a try!

  6. wow it looks interesting and yummy! gonna try it <3

    Letters To Juliet

  7. I really enjoy watermelon paired with unusual flavors; I recently had it with feta and that was very good.

  8. I had watermelon soup once at this awesome steak house in Las Vegas. It was called Strip House and had a burlesque theme interior. Best steak and lobster bisque ever.

    Watermelon is summer for me. It's so refreshing, filling, and good for you. I haven't had enough yet.

  9. Watermelon is THE FRUIT! Grilled watermelon with honey and lime, watermelon slush, watermelon ice cubes... One has to love watermelon. I wonder if there are any watermelon-flavoured lubricants for sale! The way it tastes... like sugary water or something alike. YUM. "Now, I'm the first to admit that watermelon and mustard are not a pairing I've often craved in the same forkful, but it's sometimes the curious flavour combinations that prove to be the most delicious" - Yes, I thought that would be such an odd combo too! But it's just like figs, Port wine and aubergine: perrrrfect!

  10. I adore watermelon. You are so right about it being the perfect fruit for summer. I have delicious memories of my mum's melon ball salads.

    Thanks for sharing this recipe. I will definitely try it when it starts to warm up down here.

  11. Wow! I have my mind very closed so far and I was not able to imagine but as watermelon fruit, just ... you have opened a small gap in my mind ... I'm going to find more recipes with watermelon now ... Happy weekend, dear Lady.

  12. It is funny how we instantly decide we won't like something, without even trying it. I will be brave and give it a try.

  13. I love watermelon, but it's never even occurred to me to try it in a salad. It's winter here in Australia at the moment, but you can bet that I'll be giving this a try once summer hits.

  14. Oh, my..
    I am, as you've said it "squarely against" the idea of mixing anything with watermelon. It could be that I'm like that because we have never even imagined such an adventurous mixture, non the less tried it. :D
    Personally, I did love watermelon. However, in these past years (I won't bother you here)I've stopped having it. Nowadays; while my folk are munching their big chunks of it, I allow myself a bite.. on occasion.

    Wow.. we are half way through August.. better prepare the rain-coats! :D

    Have a lovely week-end!

  15. I love watermelon salads - mint, watermelon, feta and a vinegar dressing!

  16. How I just love your writing. You don't just write, you create a feeling. And yes, water melon salad is the symbol of summer. I'll save this recipe, thank you for sharing. :)

  17. Ah, I was just thinking how it was getting closer to watermelon season in my neck of the woods. YUM!