We toasted to memories of our amazing summer, and to the prospect of a blessed new season. The signs of autumn are all around us...though here, in southern California, we sometimes have to look closely. Fall brings the Santa Anas, and fires. Fall brings more heat and dry air. Leaves and mountainsides turn brown and tinder dry. Seed pods rattle in the breeze, and palm fronds tumble to the ground. The light is changing, and the sun comes in at a different angle--dusk comes sooner too.
In the markets winter squash and pumpkins are making their appearance, and grapes, apples, pears and pomegranates are slowly edging out peaches and plums. Tomatoes still abound, and melons and corn are available, though time is running out.
So on this first day of autumn, the equinox, we dined al fresco, by candlelight. We feasted on our favorite tastes of summer--corn, watermelon, and big, juicy, grilled steaks. We reminisced about our trip east and back, and talked about all the exciting things that are just around the bend...there are so many!
I tried a new salad too...a recipe I've seen many times, but been a bit afraid to make. The ingredients on their own, I adore. Watermelon? Yes! Tomatoes? The best! Feta cheese? Yummy! Cilantro? Heaven! But all together? I just wasn't sure. So tonight I bit the bullet and gave it a go. And you know what? It's a like a chorus of flavors in the mouth. Maybe even a symphony. It's that good.
The crisp and sweet watermelon plays splendidly against the tender, juicy tomatoes and the tangy, salty cheese. And the grassy, herbaceousness of the cilantro makes for a spectacular top note. It's the kind of taste that is so surprising upon first bite, that you have to immediately take another one, just to be sure it was for real. And the ease with which this salad was thrown together, tells me that this could become a late summer standby, even a main course, on those sweltering nights when it is simply too hot to cook or eat much of anything at all.
We enjoyed our evening so much, knowing full well, that it is an awfully long wait until summer produce comes 'round again. And we're going to milk every last bit of it...I hope you do too.
Watermelon, Tomato and Feta Salad
1/2 a smallish seedless watermelon (that weighs around 6 pounds), peeled and cubed
8 ounces feta cheese in brine, cubed
2 medium ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
handful of cilantro, chopped
drizzle of red wine vinegar
drizzle of olive oil
Toss watermelon, feta, and tomatoes together in a salad bowl. Drizzle with vinegar and oil. Top with cilantro. Serve immediately, or chill up to one hour.