Does cooking and eating well have to be hard? I’m a firm believer that we can all throw together simple snacks, meals, and sweet treats that are not just beautiful to look at but also seriously nourishing. That’s what this watermelon feta skewer recipe is all about.
Recently I taught a cooking class to twenty-eight of the most eager, engaged kids at Bay Leaf Kitchen Camp here in San Francisco. They built the most amazing summer veggie chicken curry, creating a dish that had layers of flavors. Their savory and creamy yogurt based curry started with blooming (or gently awakening) their spices in oil, then sweating the garlic, onion, and ginger to release these aromatics, and finally to simmering their rainbow of chopped veggies and seared chicken thighs in the creamy yogurt broth they had made. It was devoured not just because they liked the final plate, but because all along the way of cooking it, the sights, smells, and tastes of the raw ingredients convinced their senses it was going to be delicious!
What I love to teach kids is how chefs, just like artists, create food that’s as visually delicious as it is tasty. Colors, textures, and flavors are all tools I can play with. The key is to play, not strain, when you’re cooking, and remember that you’re smarter than the food! Watermelons can’t talk back.
If I apply those same principles to simple summer cooking, here’s how I’d break it down:
- Have an adventure the next time you’re in the supermarket. Yellow watermelon vs. red? Yes, why not! It has a slightly different taste than red and makes you smile.
- Think about the five flavors when you cook: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami (or meaty). In these skewers, I choose feta to give that salty flavor to offset the sweet watermelon, and cherry tomatoes to add a little touch of balanced acid.
- Use different textures in your food! In these skewers, the watermelon is lush and juicy, the cherry tomatoes are crunchy, and the feta is creamy.
Let the kid in you relish in just how fun and easy summer cooking can be!
- yellow watermelon, small, 1
- cherry tomatoes, 1 pint
- feta cheese, 7 oz
- basil, 1 small bunch
- balsamic vinegar, ½ cup
- wooden skewers
- Take 5 minutes to get out all your ingredients, measuring and cooking equipment needed, and place them on a cookie sheet within easy reach.
- Wash all produce.
- Cut watermelon into medium sized cubes. You can also buy pre-cut watermelon, but I love getting a whole one. That way, I can blend up the leftovers with a lime for a refreshing drink.
- Cut feta into medium sized blocks. Note: if you cut feta too small, it will crumble when you try to put the skewer through it.
- In a small pot, reduce the balsamic vinegar by half, by letting it simmer and stirring every so often. Adjust the heat to maintain a steady simmer and allow the vinegar to reduce slowly. It should be the consistency of molasses, thick but still spreadable. If you accidently (like I often do) reduce it down too much to where it won’t drizzle, a quick fix is to stir in a few teaspoons of maple syrup or agave to loosen it up. Plus, it tastes great.
- Set up an assembly station with watermelon, feta, basil, and cherry tomatoes, and ask your kids to help you put these together!
- Vary the colors and texture as you build your skewer. Here’s an example: watermelon, feta, basil, then tomatoes, and repeat! Note: we leave our basil leaves whole and just fold them over as we put them on the skewer.
- Serve as a snack or appetizer with a little reduced balsamic drizzled on top!