My friends, Labor Day is once again upon us: a day of smiling through tears as we send another summer into the Great Unknown not with sorrow in our hearts but with beer in our bellies. Also, charred meat. Oh god, the charred meat. Like a proper jazz funeral, it is a festive and bittersweet day for celebrating the journey rather than mourning its end.
As a child, I always detested the day. After all, what kind of savage sub-humans could derive such glee from a day that heralds a return to the morbid confines of another soul-sapping school year?
As I have grown into a matured mind (and rock-solid, taut, muscular, ageless body), however, I have come to appreciate the true sadism of such a holiday.
But Labor Day is about so much more than taunting the incarcerated youth of the neighborhood while sipping my coffee and reveling in my fluffy slippers; it is also about finding another excuse to eat and drink like heathens between the patriotic feast on the Fourth … and the generally idiotic feast on SuperBowl Sunday.
On this day of prideful tradition, I would not dare suggest what form of small animal you roast over your open flame, or what alcoholic concoction you wash it down with. But might I humbly offer a single suggestion for the coming weekend … a new ritualistic sacrifice over your personal pit of despair. Rustic enough for the county fair, yet plenty fancy for you finest cutoff denims.
Grilled Watermelon Salad
1 big, juicy seedless watermelon
Coarse sea salt
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Baby spinach leaves, washed
Crumbled goat cheese (or drained cottage cheese to cut down on salty taste)
Cut your waterlemon in half, across its widest point. Place the flat side down on a cutting board and cut away the rind, leaving a solid dome of red flesh. Cut lengthwise into 1 1/2″ thick filets.
Salt both sides of the watermelon slices and rest on a cooling rack to sweat for 20 to 30 minutes, placing a cookie sheet below to catch the drainage.
After the rest period, rinse each side thoroughly and set aside until you’re ready to grill. Brush a fine coating of olive oil on each side and grill over medium-hot coals for about 3-5 minutes per side.
While this makes quite a delicacy fresh off the grill, with a little salt added back in, its most ridiculous application is serving as the base for a simple summer salad. Referring to the link above, whip up a quick batch of Chocolate-Balsamic Vinaigrette sufficiently in advance to allow it time to cool.
Cut watermelon into squares approximately 3 to 4 inches across and top with crumbled goat cheese or cottage cheese. Add a few baby spinach leaves and drizzle conservatively with vinaigrette. The smoky, intensified sweetness of the melon, coupled with the acidic kick of balsamic and bitter greens is refreshing and truly unique.
And, if you really want my respect, tell me that you remembered to set aside just enough to wash it down with an impromptu watermelon margarita.