I was inspired to make this salad by Catering by Culinaire of Houston Texas . They prepared a summer mosaic salad for a wine dinner featuring local produce and Blue Heron Farm goat cheese. (If you are on Facebook, friend C by C to see the photo. And check out Mrs. Farm’s blog where she rages against the abuse of the term “artisan.” ) Their composed salad featured small blocks of feta, yellow tomato, cucumber and watermelon arranged side by side on a plate to form a perfect rectangle then dressed with a rose and fresh oregano vinaigrette.
While visiting family in Minnesota, we jointly cooked a dinner together that included garlic and wine roasted pork chops, curried summer vegetables and my contribution a version of this mosaic salad, with the dressing ingredients I had on hand. No roses or rosewater to be found in the stores near their house, so I used thyme and dried lavender
flowers in the dressing, and blended olive oil, lemon juice and rice vinegar.
The lavender adds an interesting flavor – floral, in a yummy-I’m-wondering-what-that-is, but not overwhelming in a gosh-that-tastes-like-potpourri way. Much thanks to Sarah P. and the Apex Garden Club for the cucumbers featured in tonight’s posting: one tiny 50 cent plant purchased in May at Peak Fest is producing enough to keep two households in salad!
You can cut these items into perfect squares and arrange them, but for a weeknight salad, I simple dice everything up and toss with the dressing for a quick side dish. If you do it mosaic style, you’ll need extra ingredients to have enough to make even squares. You may need a washable ruler. Its harder than it looks! Save any bits and pieces left from your cutting to make the tossed version the next day.
2 small to medium cucumbers (salad or picking type are fine)
1 cup or so of yellow grape tomatoes or 1-2 yellow heirloom tomatoes
About 2 cups of diced watermelon – I used a seedless
7 oz of feta cheese – I prefer goat or lamb’s milk feta
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon of rice vinegar
1.5 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
1.5 teaspoons of chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/8 teaspoon (a large pinch) of dried lavender flowers
Couple of dashes of salt and pepper
Optional: Slivers of fresh mint – I added this to the plated salad, but the tossed version tasted great without it.
Peel some of skin off cucumber in long strips so it looks “striped.” If cucumber is larger, I prefer to remove the seeds also. However leave them in if you are cutting squares for the mosaic version. If they are young cucumbers, leave the seeds in. Cut lengthwise
in half, then in quarters and dice. Cut grape tomatoes in half. Take rind off watermelon and dice similar size to cucumbers. Drain feta cheese and dice as well. Toss vegetables and cheese in a bowl.
At this point let the salad sit for a bit, maybe 15 minutes. The watermelon and cucumbers may release some juice, which you can then drain it or it will dilute the dressing.
Mix up the vinaigrette: pull thyme leaves off the stalks and chop. Crush the lavender leaves between your fingers so they are in small bits. Add oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Wisk together and pour over salad. Toss and serve.