Traditionally, slices of watermelon are served with chunks of Bulgarian “white” or “brined” cheese on the side. Another serving option is to crumble Bulgarian cheese over cubed watermelon and serve with a slice of bread or olives.
This is exactly the kind of dish that’s fun to play with. Many places serve it as a watermelon and cheese salad. I decided to add roasted pumpkin seeds to mine, as well as red onions in cherry vinegar, jalapenos, fresh mint and a quick drizzle of olive oil.
The cheese used in Bulgaria is called Sirene, and is a type of creamy, brined, feta-style cheese. For this recipe and in general I prefer the French feta cheese. And yes, it’s true that for the last ten years Feta cheese is a protected designation of origin in the EU, and only cheese that comes from a specific region in Greece and made in a certain way can be called feta. Still, you can find French and Israeli feta in many supermarkets around the country. All of them will work well, just choose the one you like.
The salad is great by itself, as a snack, or served next to grilled or poached fish.
Yields 4 servings
1/4 red onion, very thinly sliced into rings
3 tablespoons cherry vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 cup raw shelled pumpkin seeds
Pinch of salt
6 cups watermelon in bite-size cubes
8 oz. feta cheese
1 jalapeno, seeded and thinly sliced
1/4 cup mint leaves, torn
1. In a small bowl mix the red onion and the vinegar. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. In a heavy bottom pan heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat and fry the pumpkin seeds for about 1 minute stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with a little salt. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.
3. To build the salad, arrange the watermelon cubes on a platter. Drain the onions from the vinegar and arrange them on top of the watermelon. Crumble the feta on top and sprinkle with the fried pumpkin seeds, jalapeno and mint. Drizzle with the rest of the olive oil and serve.
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