Build-Your-Own Watermelon Salad

Watermelon Salad

It was a warm summer night when a group of us decided to go out to dinner after a fabulous “Wine Down Friday” of vino & music at Muscardini Cellars in Sonoma Valley, California. We headed over to Glen Ellen Inn  and decided to enjoy the beautiful weather by dining on the patio. After 10 minutes of deciding which wine we were going to enjoy with dinner (2006 Gundlach Bunchu Mountain Cuvee) we ordered some appetizers to share – one of which was the inspiration to today’s post: WATERMELON SALAD. Now, I’m a big fan of watermelon salads – arugula, onions, feta. Served in a carved out empty watermelon shell and even on skewers (great for parties). But this salad was different, beautiful and SO delicious. I posted the picture from dinner on instagram and my neighbor and I were inspired to make our twist on this delicious, summer salad.

Watermelon Salad Close up

BYO Watermelon Salad

  • 1 small watermelon (sliced into 1/2 – 1 inch rings – rind removed)
  • Greens of your choice: Arugula, Mâche, Spinach (we used arugula)
  • Cheese of your choice: Blue, Goat, Mozzarella (we used Blue)
  • Want to add nuts? Try Pecans, Toasted Walnuts or Almonds
  • Try adding additional fruits or veggies: Honeydew, Cantaloupe, Onions
  • Dressing: Olive Oil, Mustard Vinaigrette, Mint & Lime dressing (we simply used olive oil)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Build-your-own watermelon salad is the perfect summertime treat and so easy to make. Grab the ingredients you like, place the watermelon ring on a plate and begin to build with your favorite cheese, lettuce, nuts and dressing. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately. You can use as little or as much as you want. When we made the salad above, we simply used arugula, blue cheese, olive oil and sea salt.

Enjoy! ~Crystal

Pearl Couscous With Dry Fruits, Nuts and a Citrus Vinaigrette

Pearl Couscous

As you know from my previous post, I LOVE couscous. What is couscous exactly? It’s a coarsely ground pasta made from semolina, a type of wheat. Why do I love it?  It’s versatile, healthy (loaded with protein, selenium and potassium)  and it’s quick to prepare.

Today’s recipe is a beautiful fusion of Israeli couscous (pearl couscous), dried fruits, fresh herbs, local  cheese and nuts inspired by friend and Executive Chef, Robin Lehnhoff-McCray.

This easy lunch or light dinner option pairs perfectly with a nice crisp Sauvignon Blanc and a warm afternoon on the patio.  Enjoy and cheers to the warmer days ahead!

  • 4 cups cooked Pearl Couscous
  • ¼ cup dry apricots, chopped
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • ¼ cup dry cranberries
  • ½ bunch fresh mint, chopped
  • ½ bunch Italian parsley, chopped
  • ½ tablespoon garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup Valley Ford Estero Gold cheese, grated
  • ¼ cup toasted almonds
  • ¼ cup toasted walnuts, chopped
  • ¾ cup citrus vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Chill for 1 hour then serve.

Serves 5

Citrus Vinaigrette

  • 1 tablespoon Meyer lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • ½ cup Meyer lemon juice
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 ½ cups extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine zest, mustard, juices, sugar and parsley. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (This recipe makes 1 ½ cups of vinaigrette. Save the remaining dressing and toss with fresh greens the next day!)

*Enjoy – Crystal

Butternut Squash with Pancetta, Pomegranate Seeds, Arugula, Pears and Asiago Cheese

Butternut Squash with Pancetta, Pomegranate Seeds, Arugula, Pears and Asiago Cheese

One of the benefits of where I work is the opportunity to work with some exceptional chefs. The below recipe shared by  the Executive Chef at Kenwood Vineyards, Robin Lehnhoff-McCray, has it all. The sweet and nutty flavors from one of my favorite winter squashes married with tart pomegranate seeds (I’m on a pomegranate kick right now), crispy pancetta to add richness and texture, spicy arugula,  sweet pears and Asiago cheese for added complexity makes this recipe  the perfect winter dish. Serve it as your main entrée or as an accompaniment on the side.

1 large Butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced 1 inch
2 T olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup pomegranate seeds
8 ozs. pancetta, sliced thinly or cubed and cooked crisp
2 cups fresh baby arugula
2 large Bartlett pears, sliced thin
4-6 ozs Asiago cheese, grated
Butternut Squash Salad How To

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the squash, olive oil and salt and pepper to coat. Place this on a sheet pan and cover with foil. Bake until tender, 15 – 30 minutes (mine took about 20 mins). Uncover and continue to bake until the squash starts to turn brown on the edges. Sprinkle with the cider vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Set aside to cool.

In another bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and add in the squash. Gently toss together and serve immediately.

Serves 6-8 as main entrée.

Wine PairingWine Pairing

A Merlot or Pinot Noir would be a perfect match to the flavor profiles in this dish. Some personal favorites are Creekview Vineyards Santa Clara Valley Merlot, Benovia Winery Pinot Noir or Jack London Vineyards Merlot.