Marinated Feta with Watermelon, Fennel and Mint

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Back on the railways again for another epic journey across a continent from coast to coast, taking in Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska and finally reaching New York. The food you’ll encounter if you travel through America — from east to west, north to south — is far more complex and varied than we generally recognize. Let’s leave San Francisco with a taste of East Coast sunshine.

Ingredients

  • 800g/1lb 12oz feta cheese
  • 2tablespoons unsalted, pistachio nuts
  • A little sunflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon nigella seeds
  • 1 small (1 kg/2 lb 2 oz) watermelon, skinned, seeded and cubed
  • 2 fennel bulbs, thinly shaved
  • 2 handfuls of fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves

For the Marinade

  • 1 tablespoon fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon thyme or oregano, finely chopped
  • 1 small fresh red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
  • Juice and zest of 2 lemons
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method

Put the feta into a small shallow bowl. Mix together all the marinade ingredients in a separate bowl and pour over the feta, making sure it is all covered. Season with a little sea salt and black pepper, then cover the bowl with clingfilm and pop it into the fridge for a couple of hours.

Toast the pistachios over a medium heat in a frying pan lightly brushed with sunflower oil. When ready, place them on a clean surface and gently crush them with a rolling pin. Now toast the nigella seeds and add them to the crushed pistachios. Mix together and set aside.

In a salad bowl, toss together the watermelon, fennel shavings, parsley leaves and mint. Make your dressing by putting the olive oil and vinegar into a jar and adding salt and pepper to taste. Shake to combine and pour over the watermelon salad, gently using your fingers to make sure everything is well coated.

When the marinating time is up, remove the feta from its dish, crumble into rough chunks and scatter across your salad. Follow this with a sprinkling of the toasted nuts and seeds for a pleasing final crunch.

For the Dressing

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • Sea salt and black pepper
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