It’s the end of August and I am in denial that fall is on it’s way. Yes, it’s still several weeks until the calendar officially says it’s fall. But here in Iowa the mornings have been getting cooler (58 degrees) and I have noticed a few leaves have started to turn color ever so slightly. Part of my says NOOOOO, it can’t be fall yet, I am not ready! The other part of me is really enjoying the comforting warmth of my hot tea during the cool mornings. TBH this August has not felt much like August weather – it hasn’t been 90 degrees, the pavement so hot you could fry an egg on it. I can’t decide if I love it or hate it. On one hand we haven’t had to turn on our noisy window a/c but on the other hand it doesn’t feel like the end of August heat wave that makes us crave the cooler weather of fall!
For now, let’s just embrace the end of summer with this loaded watermelon salad with pesto! How amazing does that sound?! How can you not look at those beautiful red balls of watermelon and that dollop of basil pesto all drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette and not beg summer to hold on just a little longer?!
Let’s dive right into this Loaded watermelon salad. I discovered how well pesto goes with watermelon on a salad when I had some pesto leftover from my anything you have homemade pesto post, pretty much the rest was history. Quick pickled red onions were a must, always love how those tangy, salty mild red onions – they go so well on a salad. Walnuts for crunch, but you can use any kind of nut you prefer. Of course the pesto had to be basil. If you didn’t know, basil and watermelon pair nicely together. What is great abut a dollop of pesto on a salad is that it acts as an added dressing. And the balsamic vinaigrette was a no brainier because balsamic always plays nicely with fruit. A little feta cheese if you please – believe it or not the saltiness of feta cheese is the ultimate balance with that sweet watermelon. Look out foodie lovers of all things salty and sweet!
The chicken breast was an afterthought as meat usually is for me. No joke, I love veggies so so much that I usually have to remind myself to think of the protein in a salad or a dish. I guess that’s why there are so many side dish recipes on this blog rather than entrees. So it was time to decide, if this salad should be a side salad or a good hearty entree salad. The chicken spoke to me – okay not literally but figuratively. TBH you could easily leave the chicken off if you wanted to make this salad a side or keep it vegetarian – I get you.
Yes, I know the ingredients list looks long for this loaded watermelon salad but really it’s not so bad, it just looks like a lot because of the pesto ingredients and the pickled onion ingredients. But here is the best part my friends if you are into meal prepping – you are my hero – then you can easily prep a lot of these ingredients so that your loaded watermelon salad comes together super fast when it’s time to eat. I left you ideas in the notes section of the recipe box below, because I envy you meal prepping masters.
Let’s talk about that watermelon for a second. Watermelon is not only refreshing and the symbol of summertime food but it’s super nutritious.
First off watermelon is packed with water (get it? WATER melon?!) so it’s very hydrating, hence why it’s so great on a hot summer day. But you probably knew that. What I didn’t know is how many vitamins and minerals are packed into watermelon – it is loaded with vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, magnesium and Vitamins B1, B5 and B6. Plus it’s very low in calories for fruit, even lower than low sugar fruit, such as berries. Watermelon, you rock!
Besides, just look at how gorgeous watermelon is in all of it’s pinky-red color!
You know those salads that are boring and make you wish you were eating pizza instead?! My friends, this loaded watermelon salad is not that kind of salad – it is anything but boring. It’s like flavor explosion in your mouth! Plus it has all of the textures you crave on a good salad – crunchy, juicy, and creamy. Oh, and that balance of salty, sweet and sweet, savory is perfection.
Weather you make this loaded watermelon salad as a side or as a meal or prep the ingredients ahead of time for a quick weeknight dinner I know you’ll love it in all of it’s end-of-summer glory. Sorry fall, we are having a few more rounds of summertime recipes before we succumb to pumpkin spiced things and warming soups – okay I really do love all of those things.
BUT first, loaded watermelon salad…..
- Quick Pickled Red Onions
- ¼ cup hot water
- ½ cup distilled vinegar
- 2 teaspoons agave nectar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- Basil Pesto
- 1 cup dark leafy greens: spinach, kale, or arugula
- 2 cups basil leaves
- 1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ cup almonds
- Juice of ½ lemon
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- Optional: ¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ cup olive oil
- Balsamic Vinaigrette
- ½ cup balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tablespoon grape seed oil
- salt and pepper
- 2 Skinless boneless chicken breasts
- For the salad
- A few handfuls of mixed salad greens or arugula
- 1 cup seedless watermelon, cubed or made into balls
- ¼ cup walnuts or other nuts of choice (almonds, pecans etc)
- 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- Make the quick pickled onions: In a medium-sized jar or other heat-proof container with a lid, add the hot water, distilled vinegar, agave nectar, and salt. Close the lid and shake to combine well. Add the onion slices and submerge them in the liquid. Place in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. 30 minutes is best.
- Make the basil pesto: Pulse together greens + flavors: To the food processor add your greens, herbs, garlic, nuts, lemon juice, and Parmesan cheese and pulse until a crumb texture forms.
- Stream in oil: While the motor of the food processor is running slowly stream in the oil. Continue to blend until you reach your desired consistency. I prefer my pesto to have a little texture so I stop once the oil has streamed in. Pulse in the salt and pepper to taste and red pepper flakes if you desire. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
- Make the balsamic Vinaigrette: Add all of the ingredients to a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake until well combined, or whisk in a small mixing bowl. Taste and adjust for seasoning, set aside.
- Cook the chicken: Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, Season the chicken with salt and pepper on one side. Once the pan is hot add the oil, place the chicken seasoned side down and season the side facing upward with salt and pepper. Cook 5 to 7 minutes per side or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Prepare the salad: While the chicken is cooking get the salad greens ready into your serving bowl. Cut up the watermelon and add to the salad. Add the walnuts, feta cheese, pickled onions. and a dollop of the basil pesto.
- Finish assembling the salad: Once the chicken has rested slice and add it to the salad. Dress just before serving. Eat immediately. Store any leftovers in separate air tight containers.
-Make quick pickled onions
-Make balsamic Vinagrette
-Cook chicken breast. Either eat it cold on the salad or reheat it in the microwave.
-Cut up watermelon