I remember the first time I had this salad, which was in Athens quite a few years ago. My sister Lorie and I had traveled to Greece, where we made Athens our home port while we explored Mykonos, Corinth, Delphi, Santorini and other cities and islands in Greece, before heading to Cairo to see the Sphinx and Pyramids of Giza. This was a major trip for us traveling over 6,800 miles from home. And then there was the Six Degrees of Separation thing, only we didn’t know it had a name at that time. You know the theory, where everyone on the planet can be connected to everyone else somehow via 2 people, done in six steps or less (isn’t it the actor Kevin Bacon who can claim he can be connected to just about everyone in Hollywood?) Anyway, we experienced the theory first-hand on this trip. While sitting at an outdoor café in front of a large hotel, I mentioned that I was tiring of repeatedly eating the same Greek salad of cucumbers and tomatoes, served with every meal (including breakfast). A couple nearby overheard my comment and started to laugh and said we were sitting outside one of the most luxurious hotels in Athens (albeit in the Mediterranean or in Europe) and assured me that if we wanted a wonderful salad that was not the usual fare, but embraced by the locals, then we should join them for lunch. We entered the Hotel Grande Bretagne, (that was breathtaking) and proceeded to dine on the delightful and refreshing Watermelon and Feta Cheese Salad, along with lamb shanks.
As to Six Degrees of Separation: The friendly couple we met actually worked for the same semi-conductor company my sister worked at in the Bay Area, only they worked at the location in Saudi Arabia. We had all sojourned for vacation to Athens. As our conversation progressed we found out this same couple were best friends of JB (a former boss of mine), whom I had not seen in over 5 years. Talk about a small world we live in. But there is more to this Six Degrees theory as a week later while headed for dinner on our last night in Athens, we literally bumped into JB while crossing a street corner entering the Plaka District, as he had been conducting a medical symposium in Athens earlier that week. This gave me the chills having just had a major conversation with the couple in the hotel about this individual. But I was glad to see him, and he did treat us to dinner where we dined on fresh fish and figs, drank Retsina and Ouzo and then proceeded to smash dishes while yelling “Opa” as they crashed to the floor (don’t do this wearing sandals – ouch!) A really fun evening and great way to end our trip in Greece!
And now to the salad, first tasted at the Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens. Don’t know their recipe, but this is what I have served ever since that first offering.
1 large watermelon, cut into chunks
12 oz crumbled feta cheese
1 cup pistachios (shelled)
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbl. Sugar
1 cup fresh basil
- Cut watermelon into chunks and add to salad bowl.
- Combine balsamic vinegar and sugar in a pot and boil down to 6 tablespoons – refrigerate for 15 minutes.
- Once the dressing is chilled pour it over the watermelon.
- Rough chop the basil.
- Sprinkle the pistachios and basil on top of watermelon. Add the crumbled Feta Cheese.
- Note that you need to serve this immediately as the vinegar seeps in very quickly and if you let it sit out for a while, it breaks down the watermelon. Enjoy!
Serves: 8 servings