Firecracker Salad – Happy 4th of July! #SummerSoiree

This entry is part 46 of 53 in the series Food Network

Firecracker Watermelon Salad; 2014 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook

When I was a child, the 4th of July meant we were halfway through the long hot summer days with no school. When we would wear shorts, head to the pool or lake to cool off, and sit on the sidewalk eating icy slices of watermelon. There was nothing better than being happily covered with watermelon juice, sticky and smiling from ear to ear. 

Today for the Food Network’s #SummerSoiree we are celebrating the nation’s founding with a variety of our favorite summertime treats. There are many versions of red, white, and blue desserts so I wanted to give you a different option for tomorrow’s celebrations.

Firecracker Watermelon Salad; 2014 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook

Fruit, mint, shallots and jalapeno peppers before dressing was added

Just like when I was a kid, my favorite summer indulgence is watermelon and I wait all year for it to come into season. These days I am slightly more refined when eating it, preferring cubes to slices, but I still eat it with the same delight.

Most of the time I eat watermelon plain, relishing the clean flavor and thirst quenching juices. But today I thought I would change it up a little and use it as the base for a different kind of fruit salad. If you’ve ever had a pineapple salsa, this is along the same lines, but much less acidic. The watermelon is sweet, the blueberries a touch tart, the mint refreshing, and the jalapeno a surprising pop of heat. Then you tie it all together with a dressing made with orange juice and balsamic vinegar for the perfect side dish.

Firecracker Watermelon Salad; 2014 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook

If you are planning on serving potato and macaroni salads or cole slaw with mayonnaise-based dressings, this will be a bright palate cleanser and cuts through the fattier options, waking up your taste buds. If you watch many cooking shows on TV, you know the judges are often saying, “It could use more acid.” This salad will give you the acidic component in your meal that would make the judges proud!

Make sure you check out everyone’s delightful recipes below. What an array this week!

Have a wonderful, fun and safe Fourth of July!!

Firecracker Watermelon Salad; 2014 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook

Gluten-Free Tips:

Naturally gluten-free. Always check labels for possible gluten ingredients – in this recipe check your balsamic vinegar to be safe.

Kitchen Skill: How to Safely Clean and Prep Melons

One thing I learned when I worked in a professional kitchen was that everything needs to be washed before preparing, even something you will be peeling. It seems counterintuitive, but once your knife makes the first cut, anything on the outside of the melon will be introduced to the interior with every subsequent cut. Rinse the melons under cool running water to remove most of the bacteria present.

When cutting a melon, the first thing you want to do is take a slice off one end so you have a flat, stable surface when you are making the rest if the cuts. I cut a slice off both ends, deep enough to see the interior flesh. Stand the melon on one end and using a sawing motion, slice off the rind, starting at the top and following the curvature, work your way down to the bottom. If there are any spots of rind left, clean those up before continuing.

Once peeled, cut the melon in half and then work with the cut side down on the cutting board for the safest way to cut it into chunks. If there are seeds, use a spoon to scrape them out and discard.

Firecracker Watermelon Salad; 2014 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook

How to peel a whole watermelon – Use a sharp knife and cut off strips, following the contours of the melon

Firecracker Watermelon Salad; 2014 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook

Happy Fourth of July!

Firecracker Watermelon Salad with Orange Vinaigrette
Yields 4
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Firecracker Salad
  1. 4 cups cubed ripe, seedless watermelon
  2. 1 large shallot, peeled and finely minced
  3. 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
  4. 2 tsp finely minced jalapeno peppers, or more to taste
  5. 1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed and patted dry
  6. 3 tbsp grated ricotta salata or crumbled feta, or more to taste
  7. Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  8. Fresh mint sprigs, for garnishing
Orange Vinaigrette
  1. 1/2 tsp freshly grated orange zest
  2. 2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
  3. 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  4. 1-1/2 tsp honey or agave nectar, or to taste
  5. 1 tsp finely minced shallots
  6. 3/4 tsp dry mustard
  7. 1 tbsp sugar
  8. Pinch kosher or sea salt
  9. 6 tbsp organic olive oil
  10. Pinch xanthan gum or guar gum, optional
Prepare the Watermelon
  1. Wash the melon under cool running water; dry and set on cutting board. See Kitchen Skill (above) for the technique for peeling and cubing the watermelon
Assemble the Salad
  1. In a very large mixing bowl, place the watermelon cubes, shallots, mint, jalapeno, blueberries, salt and pepper. Gently toss together and set aside.
Prepare the Orange Vinaigrette
  1. In a small, deep bowl with high sides, whisk together the orange juice, vinegar, shallots, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper. Slowly pour in the oil, whisking constantly until the mixture is blended and emulsified. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  2. If you are baking gluten-free you likely have xanthan gum in your pantry. This is another way to utilize it. Gums are used in store-bought dressings because it helps keep the ingredients emulsified. If you whisk it in, the dressing will thicken as it stands and clings to the fruit more easily. Xanthan gum is expensive, so if you do not already have it, don’t buy it just for this recipe.
  3. Pour the dressing over the watermelon mixture and toss gently to evenly coat the fruits. Cover and place in the refrigerator about 1 hour for the flavors to blend, tossing occasionally. Bring it out of the refrigerator, toss again and taste. The flavors will become more intense as it sits, so adjust accordingly.
To Serve
  1. Use a slotted spoon to divide the watermelon salad evenly between the serving plates. Garnish with mint sprigs if desired and serve immediately.
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Create a New Tradition Today!

This recipe is part of Food Network’s weekly Sensational Sides. See the links below for more inspiration and great recipes!

The Heritage Cook: Firecracker Salad
Jeanette’s Healthy Living: Brazilian Acai Breakfast Bowl
Weelicious: Magical Fruit Wands
Sweet Bake Life: Patriotic Moscato Gelatin Shots
Virtually Homemade: Traditional Potato Salad
Dishing With Divya: Red, White and Blue Fruit Salad
Feed Me Phoebe: Red, White and Blue Coconut Panna Cotta Cups
Domesticate Me: 12 Foolproof Recipes for the Fourth of July
Taste With The Eyes: Patriotic Grilled Chicken, Savory Blueberry Compote and Strawberry Arugula Salad
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Grilled Bruschetta with Pesto, Sauteed Spinach and Garlic Scapes
Red or Green: Popcorn with Jalapenos and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Mini Cherry Blueberry Pies
Devour: Star Sweets for the 4th
Swing Eats: Corn Dogs (Gluten-Free)
Daily*Dishin: Dilly Potato Salad
FN Dish: 4th of July Treats

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