I have a refreshing suggestion for you inspired by my recent trip to NAPA Valley: Cilantro Jalapeño Watermelon Salad.
There are so many wineries, vineyards, and tasting rooms in NAPA that it could have been incapacitatingly (is that a word?) overwhelming. It's nice to have a brother-in-law who is a wine expert. I asked him for a few suggestions and he went above and beyond planning our wine tasting experiences. Thank you, Ken, you are the best!
On the other hand, John and I have no problem searching out food! We had many fabulous meals in NAPA from fancy-shmancy to a road side Mexican market. One of the places we dined was a celebrity chef’s Mexican restaurant. I think we ordered one of everything between us to taste....research...its our job, right?
It was a super hot day of wine tasting in Northern California, so in addition to chips and salsa, we started with a watermelon salad. Sweet watermelon lightly dressed with oil, onion, mint and raw sunflower seeds. It was a refreshing way to settle in before our many other items arrived. We both enjoyed it, but I told John that I thought I could do better (then a celebrity chef?!). So, when we returned home, I gave it a try. My family told me they liked it and there were no left overs so I think I accomplished my mission.
Here's what I did. I cheated on the watermelon and purchased pre-cut spares which I cut into chunks. I added a little red onion and drizzled with Franklin Inn Cilantro Jalapeño Vinaigrette (everything needed is in the bottle). I could have stopped there and it would be wonderful, juicy and sweet. However, I added a little fresh chocolate mint that has been going crazy in my backyard for years. I can't get rid of it. And yes, it really has a slight chocolate scent...but any mint would do. Again, I could have stopped there. It tasted great....
But, I was bugged by the raw sunflower seeds in the celebrity version so I decided to roast some. I already had raw pumpkin seeds so I used them. I mixed the seeds with fresh squeezed lime juice, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper then baked them on a cookie sheet. They were phenomenal. Make extra for a snack.
Believe it or not, my family doesn't eat Mexican every night (but we do a lot!). We actually were having a Mediterranean inspired meal for the rest of dinner. I even made homemade tzatziki sauce. The watermelon salad was much easier than the rest but no one else will know unless you tell. If you want an effortless side dish for dinner or a picnic, try it.
Grab a bottle of Cilantro Jalapeno Vinaigrette at the Franklin Inn, online here, or at Shenot or Kaelin Farm Markets. Drizzle the dressing on watermelon. Stop there or add a little onion and a fresh herb you have in your garden. Again, stop there, or top with roasted seeds with your choice of seasonings. Use whatever you have or moves you. You will create an elegant refreshing side dish with little effort, almost like the celebrity version, but I think better, because you are the chef of your own salad.