Kitchen Witch - Major melons

Before summer makes its exit, consider the watermelon. Great big mama that she is — with her juicy, fuchsia hunks of flesh — slurp her up before she goes the way of the harvest moon. Except this time around, treat the lady with a dab of sophistication. Team her up with some savory elements, instead of dragging her outside all by her lonesome, allowing her juices to drip on the pavement. (Not that there's anything wrong with that ... .)

Invite some cucumber to join the party, along with a smidge of diced red onion or some thinly sliced fennel for color, crunch and the beginnings of an interesting combination of contrasts. This is a salad, people, and it's gonna be fabulous and mysterious, no matter what you decide.

Your guests will knit their eyebrows, wondering what the secret is in the sauce. Keep going: Put in chopped fresh mint, cilantro or basil, which adds depth of flavor and earthiness. Spices such as ground coriander, curry powder or nutmeg lend another layer of intrigue, followed up by a healthy squeeze of lime and a generous sprinkling of coarse salt just before serving. Yes, salt. It works magically against the sweetness of the fruit, in the same vein as a chocolate-covered pretzel.

The Greeks have been doing this kind of thing for ages, typically adding hunks of feta and olives to the mix. Try it for kicks, and if you do, adjust the salt accordingly.

Alone or with partners such as fish, a big ol' burger or some grilled chicken, this lil' number feels healthy, restorative and clean on the tongue. (Must be all that potassium and vitamin A.)

Now go out and pick your melon before it's too late.

Estimate approximately one cup of watermelon per person (seeded and in small cubes).

To that, add any or all of the following:

1 medium-sized diced cucumber?
?1 fennel, fronds removed, thinly sliced?
?1 small red onion, diced?
?1 small bunch of mint, cilantro or basil, washed, dried and picked from stems, then gently torn or chopped?
?1 teaspoon coriander, curry powder or nutmeg?
?Juice of 1-2 limes?
?Salt to taste (start with a few pinches)?

n a salad bowl, mix all ingredients and stir to combine. Taste for balance of flavors, texture and salt. How's it going? Season the salad until you love it. Serve immediately. Keeps in fridge in airtight container for about one day.

Kim O'Donnel, the host of What's Cooking on washingtonpost.com, tests all the recipes so you don't have to. Send questions and comments to kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.

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