Summers, past & present

I grew up in the deep, deep South. Summers–and most of the year–were filled with thick, suffocatingly hot days and the nights were only marginally cooler, sometimes. I was a kid, I didn’t notice. There was a pool to cool off in or a popsicle or ice cream to eat; and, there was fun to be had. Most of my summer breaks included weeks on end at my grandparents house in a tiny town in Louisiana called Mt. Hermon. My mom had grown up there; my grandparents owned a farm–it was my grandfather’s family dairy farm. The summers were, at least in my 41-year old memory, idyllic. Rolling farm land, big sweeping magnolia trees that provided welcome shade to the swing sets sitting beneath their branches, a pool where all the grandkids would spend hours, and the noise of the ice cream churn in the background. It was wonderful and, I know, it was so very hot, but, I didn’t care.When the sun went down, well after dinner, all the kids would gather outside and play hide-and-seek in the dark. There was a single street light, right by the narrow road that ran in front of the house. The light didn’t go far, so, we used flashlights; we split into two groups, one to hide and one to seek. There were large magnolia trees right by the house, along with big hydrangea bushes, and the dairy. Other than that, the house was surrounded by open land, dotted with a barn or two, bales of hay and cattle, trees, a garden, and few other houses. My cousins and I would play for hours those warm summer nights–hiding among and sometimes up in the trees, the barns and green house, and even the hydrangea bushes, along with many creepy-crawly things and fireflies. I was a kid, it was summer, and we could play until we were all exhausted. It was wonderful.

One thing that, even now, decades after those idyllic summer days, that instantly takes me back and screams, “Summer!”, is that first cold bite of watermelon on a warm summer day. Those summers at my grandparents’ farm, we’d sit out under the trees at a picnic table and eat watermelon–the kind with the big fat black seeds, fresh from the garden, sweet and crisp. Each person got a quarter of a watermelon, a butter knife, and some salt, all served up on a well-worn cookie sheet. Then, we’d spit seeds at each other and laugh.

Now, when I was a kid, I never had watermelon in a salad, or with lime and spice. I would have thought it weird back then. But, now, I know it’s delicious. And, when I take that first bite of sweet watermelon, I’m home, it’s summer, and the fun is just beginning.

Watermelon & Arugula Salad with Sumac-Lime Dressing

Sumac-Lime Dressing
1 tsp Sumac Salt Blend*
1 Tbsp Extra virgin oil
Juice from 1/2 a small lime
1/4 tsp Honey
1/4 tsp Dijon mustard

Salad
1 C (163 g) Watermelon chunks
1 C (28 g) Baby arugula, washed
1 tsp (9 g) Crumbled feta cheese
Roasted pumpkin seeds

Details:

For the dressing

  • Add all ingredients in a small jar.
  • Tighten the lid on the jar and shake for 45 seconds.

For the salad

  • Combine the watermelon, arugula, and feta cheese in a medium bowl.
  • Add 2 teaspoons dressing and toss a few times to coat the melon and arugula.
  • Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and another pinch or two of sumac seasoning salt.

*Notes:

  • Sumac is a lovely brownish/purplish red spice that has a tangy lemon flavor with soft floral notes. It can be found in well-stocked grocery stores, usually in the bulk spices, or in a Middle Eastern market. Try sumac sprinkled on hummus or in salads; it’s also a major component of one of my favorite spice blends, za’tar.
  • For the sumac seasoning salt, combine 1 tablespoon sumac, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon (depends on your preference) cayenne in a small jar. This can be used on roasted vegetables or meats, hummus, salads, or just dip watermelon in it directly!

 

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