Watermelon, Cucumber, + Feta Salad

Watermelon, Cucumber, + Feta Salad |
Watermelon, Cucumber, + Feta Salad |
Chopping Watermelon |
Chopping Cucumber |
Watermelon, Cucumber, + Feta Salad Mise En Place |
Feta |
Basil |
Watermelon, Cucumber, + Feta Salad |

My heart is so happy right now I could squeal! We've just returned from our family's 29th annual reunion in South Carolina. Back when I was a wee lass my grandparents had the good sense to institute a summer tradition of gathering their five children plus families for a week at the beach. God bless them, they stuck with it. I've always cherished this trip but have grown to appreciate it more with each passing year. With a new crop of itty-bitty babies our head count this summer totaled 33. Besides the good company, I adore that this week is a true vacation. There's nowhere to go, nothing to see. Upon arrival it takes but minutes to fall into the familiar routine we've perfected over nearly three decades. Tennis/jogging/straight up lounging in the morning; lunches of build-your-own honey baked ham sandwiches and pimento cheese (while it lasts); afternoons on the beach, stocked coolers in tow; cocktails and hor d'oeuvres on the porch; dinner together at the big long table (actually three pushed together to make one); party and card games in the evenings. Sleep and repeat. It's magic. Scroll on for a few snaps.

Every night a different family takes a turn cooking dinner for the crowd. Some version of this watermelon salad usually makes an appearance, and for good reason. It's simple, brilliantly pretty, and a surefire crowdpleaser.

The beach house...

The beach house...

...and 180 degrees.

...and 180 degrees.

South Carolina surf.

South Carolina surf.

My adorable grandparents with their five children. Props to my mom for holding her own with four brothers!

My adorable grandparents with their five children. Props to my mom for holding her own with four brothers!

Watermelon, Cucumber, + Feta Salad |


Serves 4

  • 1 small watermelon, cubed (if you have a large melon, use 1/2)
  • 4 Persian cucumbers, quartered lengthwise and diced
  • 1 serrano chile, sliced into thin rounds (if you don't like heat, omit!)
  • 8 oz. feta*, cubed 
  • 12-16 basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 12-16 mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • Juice of one half lime
  • Sea salt
  • Olive oil


  • Toss watermelon, cucumber, serrano, feta, basil and lime juice in serving bowl
  • Sprinkle with sea salt and drizzle with olive oil
  • Serve immediately (If allowed to sit the watermelon and cucumber will release water. Toss ingredients as close to serving as possible.)

*A few notes on feta from our resident cheesemonger. High quality feta will make this salad sing. Feta can be made from cow's milk, goat's milk, sheep's milk, or some combination of these. In the States cow's milk is the most ubiquitous, found in those little vacuum sealed squares at the grocery store. Those will do in a pinch but you're better off seeking out a feta packed in brine. 100% sheep's milk is my favorite. French, Greek, or Bulgarian are all excellent bets but never rule out the feta you find at your local farmer's market. 


Acorn Squash + Creamy Herb Farro

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Creamy Herb Farro |
Creamy Herb Farro |

Spring has sprung and brought with her today  a high of 28 degrees. Good grief. We're weary here in New England but I know, I know, old news.  I'd probably be numb to our situation if we hadn't just returned from a jaunt to Florida. There's nothing like a four day Vitamin-D binge to bring your state of deprivation into sharp focus. Well that and the fact that while I'm sporting flip flops and a maxi dress, the snowbird one seat over at brunch is cloaked in a turtleneck and a fleece. No lie.

But enough of that. In the spirit of the sunshine state, I'll turn to the bright side. March in New England has its charms and one is kitchen projects that involve cream sauce and melted cheese. Think of our poor neighbors to the south. Floridians have no business turning their ovens on in 80 degree weather. I'll bet there's but six weeks a year where roasted squash sounds like a good idea. The rest of the time they're left to get along on coconuts, strawberries, and rum runners. It's a pity, really, to not know the joys of hunkering.

This mish-mash was dreamed up one of those nights where the dinner selections looked positively drab. Wilty parsley = not inspiring. But you know what is? Mac + cheese. This farro will take you there. Except 'there', with all those whole grains and green speckles, will feel delightfully virtuous.

Hello sunshine, my old friend. 

Hello sunshine, my old friend. 

Farro |
Acorn Squash |
Roasted Acorn Squash |
Acorn Squash Stuffed with Creamy Herb Farro |

Roasted Acorn Squash + Creamy Herb Farro

Serves 2


  • 1 Acorn squash
  • Olive oli, salt, + pepper
  • 1 cup farro
  • 2 Tbs. butter 
  • 1 Tbs. flour
  • 1 Cup whole milk
  • 1 Cup grated Gruyere cheese + extra for sprinkling
  • 1 Cup chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley and basil)


  • Roast the Squash
    • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
    • Cut squash in half lengthwise (be careful, this part's a tad scary)
    • Scoop out seeds and discard (or save to roast)
    • Place halves on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt + pepper
    • Bake for one hour or until the flesh easily gives when pierced with a fork; remove from oven
  • Cook the Farro
    • Bring 6 cups of salted water to a rolling boil
    • Rinse farro and add to boiling water (You can cook farro like rice or like pasta; I prefer the pasta method so you eliminate the guessing game of getting the right grain to liquid ratio)
    • Cook farro at a boil for 20 minutes or until grains are tender
    • Drain
  • Make Cheese Sauce
    • In a heavy-bottomed saucepan melt butter over medium heat
    • Whisk in flour
    • Whisking regularly, cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes until roux takes on a light brown color and becomes completely smooth; take care not to burn
    • Add milk whisking constantly until sauce begins to thicken
    • Turn heat to low and continue cooking, whisking regularly, for about 10 minutes until sauce is smooth and no longer tastes of flour
    • Add grated cheese and stir until melted and incorporated
    • Remove from heat
  • Assemble
    • Add cooked farro and fresh herbs to the cheese sauce and stir until well blended (you will have more of this mixture than you need to fill the squash, and that's is a good thing! It's awesome on its own and makes great leftovers)
    • Scoop farro into squash halves and garnish with grated Gruyere
    • Return squash to a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, until cheese on top has melted and just browned
    • Serve hot



Raw Milk Ricotta (on Toast)

Raw Milk Ricotta |
Raw Milk Ricotta on Toast |

Toast is hot. Hot as in warm, but more recently hot as in trendy. Here's proof from NPR, the New Yorker, and my neighborhood coffee shop. No argument here because toast is also delicious. I will stand firm that no topper can beat melty butter. But it is a thrill to venture into new territory on occasion. 

That's where raw milk comes in. Because toast, whether trendy or humble, is decidedly safe. Toast can travel freely across state lines. Toast will never be labeled contraband. There are no bootleg toast operations popping up in the seedy part of town. Raw milk on the other hand might find itself guilty as charged in each of these scenarios (okay, probably not the last one). But indeed there is an element of danger to raw milk, a bad boy quality that is frankly irresistible. 

Raw milk is simply milk that has not been pasteurized or homogenized, and with that comes a risk of pathogens. Laws governing its sale and distribution vary wildly by state. In this 2012 article Dana Goodyear pegged raw milk as the new pot. It's an amusing but an apt analogy. Passions run deep on each side of the debate. Advocates cite its nutritional advantages while food safety officials maintain that it's a precarious choice. 

I for one am uninterested in getting too hung up on the politics. For us, we're sure of a few things: other foods we enjoy are likely an equal gamble, it's gratifying to buy fresh milk directly from our farmer friends, and raw milk makes a mighty fine ricotta.

Collecting Milk from the Tank |

On our way home from Thanksgiving festivities last week we stopped at a farm that sells raw milk BYOB style (bring your own ball jar). This milk is but a few hours old and, honest to goodness, goes down like a vanilla milkshake.

Raw Milk Ricotta Mise En Place |

Back at home base, the magic of cheesemaking commences.

Heating Milk for Ricotta |
Ricotta Curds and Whey |

In mere minutes: curds and whey. I have made ricotta successfully with regular milk several times. The curds tend to be smaller which I understand is a result of the pasteurization process.

Draining Ricotta |

After straining you'll be left with a generous supply of whey. The proportions in this recipe yield about 2 cups of ricotta and 6 cups of whey. Over at Don't Waste the Crumbs, blogger Tiffany has assembled an extensive list of ideas for using leftover whey, including household uses beyond the kitchen.

Raw Milk Ricotta |
Raw Milk Ricotta on Toast |


Raw Milk Ricotta

Yields ~ 2 cups ricotta, 6 cups whey


  • 1/2 gallon (8 cups) fresh, raw milk
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice, about 1 lemon's worth (vinegar may be used as a substitute)
  • 1 tsp salt


  • Set a colander lined with 2 layers of cheesecloth over a bowl  (if you don't have cheesecloth a thin weave cloth or napkin or even a paper towl can stand in)
  • Pour milk into a heavy bottomed saucepan and add salt
  • Heat milk until it just comes to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent it from burning
  • Turn off heat
  • Add lemon juice (or other acid you're using)
  • Stir gently to distribute lemon juice; curds will begin to form immediately
  • Let sit for 5-10 minutes to allow curds (milk solids) to come together and separate from the whey
  • Pour the curds and whey into the lined strainer
  • Allow to drain anywhere from 15-30 minutes. The length of time will depend on how moist you prefer your ricotta. Try tasting at 15 minutes and decide whether to let it keep going. The ricotta in these photos strained for 20 minutes. If after straining, you find that the ricotta is too firm for your liking, stir a bit of whey back in one tablespoon at a time until you reach your desired consistency
  • Viola! You're ready to enjoy homemade cheese. This ricotta will keep in the fridge for about 5 days.

(On Toast)

There are an infinite number of ways to enjoy ricotta on toast and of course, no rules. In these photos I toasted bread from a pullman loaf which is sufficiently dense so that cheese won't slip through any crannies. A naked slather is divine. I also like to add:

  • Olive oil with salt and pepper (pictured)
  • Drizzle of honey and cayenne
  • Dollop of jam or preserves
  • Pesto or oilve tapenade (a lazy lady's pizza!)


Kale, Celery, + Fennel Salad

Kale, Fennel, + Celery Salad |

Today was a win. Today I finished the very last of our wedding thank you notes. I remember reading that Emily Post's permissible window for sending thank-yous is within 3 months of the occasion. Whether Emily Post is still in charge of these things, I do not know. But since I've beat the deadline (by a full 3 weeks!) I am going to go ahead and say, yes, she is still is the beacon on all things etiquette and, yes, that is from whom I'm taking my cues. I wish Emily were here right now so I could ask if that is the correct use of 'whom'.

With the great thank-you-note project wrapped and the scent of productivity still lingering in the air I decided to keep it rolling and make this salad. I heart this salad. I was reminded today that even though I always get the slightest bit annoyed midstream by the number of steps*, the end result is totally worth it. It's hearty, perfect for winter, and can hold its own the day after. Boom. 

*Go ahead and chuckle. There aren't really that many steps at all, I know. 

Lacinto Kale |

I used lacinto kale (which I still don't know how to pronounce, anyone?) but any variety would do. 

Chopped Kale |
Fennel Bulb |

Imagine a plus sign hovering above this fennel bulb. Those are the planes you want to cut along, once lengthwise, once crosswise. You'll end up with 4 quarters, each with the root end still intact which makes for easy, breezy slicing.

Shaved Fennel |
Shaved Celery |

Celery: apparently good for more than mirepoix and bloody marys.

Chopped Hazelnuts |

Don't you just love that hazelnuts are also called filberts?

Grated Pecorino Romano |

This is Pecorino Romano. Parmesan works just great too.

Kale, Celery, + Fennel Salad |

Kale, Celery, + Fennel Salad

Serves 4
  • 1 bunch kale, tough stems removed, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 bulb fennel, shaved on mandolin (1/16 inch is the setting I use)
  • 2 stalks celery, shaved on mandolin (also 1/16)
  • 2/3 cup toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped (I have substituted almonds, walnuts, and even pepitas. Whatever you fancy!)
  • 1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon


De-stem and shop the kale. Shave the fennel and celery. Toast the nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until lightly browned and aromatic, about 3-4 minutes. Roughly chop nuts. Grate the cheese. Toss all ingredients together until well coated. Finish and salt and pepper. If I'm in the mood for heat (which is pretty much always) I like to serve with big pinches of red pepper flakes.

You can serve immediately but I think this salad is at its best when its dressed and left to sit for about 30 minutes, allowing the rough kale to mellow just slightly.