I’d never seen a watermelon small enough to fit in my purse until about a decade ago. But lately, they seem to be everywhere, which is a huge boon to my pandemic melon consumption. Because without a large group to help devour the 20-odd pounds of a standard watermelon, it feels a little sad to lug one home. And as practical as those plastic-wrapped wedges may be, they’re never quite as juicy, or as satisfying as what you get from hacking into an intact melon yourself and plunging your biggest knife into its dripping, pink heart.
Personal watermelons, on the other hand, are convenient as well as succulent. I can stick one in the fridge without having to exile the condiments, so they’re easy to have around, ready to temper the heat of day.
And a steady supply of chilled watermelon, especially mixed into a cooling salad with cucumbers and pickles, was just what I needed during this torrid week in New York.
To make enough for two, you’ll need about 4 cups of watermelon chunks. If they’re not already cold, stick them in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes while you prepare everything else.
Slice two small, tender cucumbers. (Persian or Kirby cucumbers are good, and you don’t have to peel or seed them.) Put them in a bowl with a tablespoon or two of sliced pickled chiles, like pepperoncini or jalapeños, then pour in enough liquid from the chile jar to cover the cucumbers. Let the cucumbers marinate for 5 to 10 minutes. They will lightly pickle and turn a little soft and floppy, in a good way.
As the cucumbers marinate, tear or chop up a small handful of fresh herbs: basil, mint, dill, parsley. Slice two fat scallions, or a shallot, or a small chunk of red onion, enough for 2 to 3 tablespoons.
Arrange the watermelon cubes and cucumber slices on a platter, and scatter the onion and herbs on top. If you like you can add some halved cherry tomatoes, some crumbled feta or cubed mozzarella, but I didn’t.
Drizzle with a little of the chile juice from the cucumber bowl and a lot of good olive oil. Top everything with flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Then devour this tangy-sweet salad before the ambient heat warms it up, while it’s still at its coldest and most refreshing best.