I used to overlook watermelon. Smack it open with a machete and eat, the essence of no-fuss summer eating. But its succulence is a pleasant foil for many fruits including tomatoes. (The combination of watermelon with tomatoes, basil and fresh goat cheese or feta is a summer favorite.)

When watermelon and sweet Bing cherries are in season, I like to combine them in a refreshing salad.  The textural contrast of the two pleases the palate and the lingering acidity of the cherries balances the juicy sweetness of ripe watermelon. Fresh mint syrup brings the fruit flavors together into something more than a simple bowl of fruit.

Watermelon and Sweet CHerry Salad with Fresh Mint

To make the salad, give yourself enough time for the mint syrup to chill thoroughly before using.  In the summer, we keep mint syrup on hand to use on peaches, in iced tea and in cocktails. It lasts for a month or more in the refrigerator.  When making the syrup, blanching the mint  is an important step.  Don’t skip it.  Blanching ensures that the mint keeps its bright color.

Blanching fresh mint leaves for Watermelon and Sweet Cherry Salad

Pitting the cherries is a must. You can do it with a paring knife but a pitter saves the hassle and stained fingertips. I quarter the watermelon then cut 1-inch thick slices of the fruit before removing the peel. This seems to save me time.

Pitting cherries for Watermelon and Sweet Cherry Salad

I think this salad tastes best when served icy cold on a hot day. And add an hour or two for the finished salad to chill before serving.

Coconut, lemon, raspberry or strawberry sorbet will dress up this salad.  And many would welcome a splash of cognac or vodka right before serving.

Watermelon and Sweet Cherry Salad with Fresh Mint Syrup

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Watermelon and Sweet Cherry Salad with Fresh Mint Syrup

Ingredients

1 bunch of fresh mint
1 cup water
½ cup granulated sugar
3 pounds of watermelon, about ¼ small seedless watermelon
2 pounds cherries, pitted and cut in half
Raspberry or strawberry sorbet, optional, for garnish

Directions

  1. Pick the mint leaves from their stems to get about 1 cup of fresh leaves. Bring the water to boil in a small saucepan. Drop the mint leaves in the water and blanch them for about 20 seconds. Remove the leaves from the water, saving the water for the syrup. Refresh the blanched mint under cold running water. Drain the mint in a colander while making the syrup.
  2. Add the sugar to the water in which the mint was blanched. Cook over high heat stirring until the sugar dissolves. This will take about 2 minutes.
  3. Squeeze out all the water from the mint leaves then chop them into small pieces. Add the chopped mint to the sugar syrup. Chill the syrup for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator before using.
  4. Cut the watermelon into1-inch cubes. Or use a melon scoop to make nice neat pieces. Combine the watermelon pieces with the pitted, halves cherries in a large salad bowl. Toss with the mint syrup. Serve immediately or refrigerate for several hours before serving.
  5. garnish the salad with fresh mint, some fruit sorbet, ice cream or a splash of vodka.