I have mentioned, oh, once or twice at least, my obsession with boozy Jello. These little summery beauties mixed that obsession with my love for party food and determination to try one of the many things I’ve pinned on Pinterest (I accomplish this about once a blue moon).
Since party food tastes better with company, I invited some girlfriends over for a Bubbles & BBQ party on Saturday. We had a serious spread of goodies — numerous cheeses, pasta salad, homemade pickles, Caprese salad and even a bowl of larb with butter lettuce. There were also some crazy good bacon-wrapped, shrimp-and-cheese stuffed jalapeños. Yeah, my friends can throw down when it comes to eating!
While I ate my share of fancy food in Austin, it’s a simple food cart that has been on my mind since we left. At Veracruz All-Natural, the migas breakfast tacos were unbelievably fantastic, which makes sense since they border on legendary, but it was the watermelon agua fresca that inspired obsession.
It could have been because we had drank a good amount the night before and then walked 2 miles in 90 degree weather to the cart, but one sip of that agua fresca was enough to knock my socks off. Sadly it’s one of my biggest vacation regrets that we never made it back for a second one.
And oh, we wanted to — in fact, every other day we tried to plot a trip back to the cart. But every time something else distracted us (either in the form of brisket or beer).
To make it up to me, last weekend my husband brought me home a huge watermelon. We shared a meaningful look and then I immediately turned to google.
Compressed watermelon salad w. olives, feta, micro greens and olive oil
Nothing really says summer like watermelon. Even though I think it’s best au naturel — ice cold with a hint of salt — I also really love mixing it into a (mostly) savory salad. I was introduced to the idea while working the pantry station as a line cook years ago. On the menu was a salad of perfectly cubed watermelon garnished with crumbled feta, pitted kalamata olives, mint leaves and mint oil. Somehow, even though I was familiar with the classic melon and prosciutto pairing, this combination pretty much blew my mind.
I’ve since added that watermelon salad to my revolving summer repertoire where it has, for the most part, stayed the same. The salt from the feta and olives is outstanding with the sweet melon. For greens, I still use mint when I have it around, but have found spicy greens like arugula, baby mustard greens or nasturtiums also work fabulously. And a little red onion is just a good thing overall. In lieu of mint oil, I’ve found a drizzle of lemon juice or good extra virgin olive oil is all that’s really needed to “dress” this salad.
However, after this year, I’m adding a new modernist element to my old favorite — compression.
The first time I had compressed watermelon was Friday night when my parents were in town visiting. My husband made us an appetizer that was as gorgeous as it was delicious — sliced raw scallops marinated in olive oil, togarashi and lemon served with cubes of watermelon and heirloom tomatoes. While the whole thing was fabulous, it was the melon that made the dish so interesting. Compressed it mimicked the look of tuna, glistening and meaty. It was no longer light and airy chunks, but instead dense and toothsome jewels.