Now that Ramadan is over, we have been getting more and more active during the days. Gone are the shorter work hours and the late nights and we have got back to business bright and early each morning. But even though the Islamic Holy Month has passed, we are still locked in the dead heat of the summer, which, for all intents and purposes, will not budge until mid-September. So while we have a few more weeks of intense heat and children have days still left out of school, we have to find ways not only to survive, but still thrive in the scorching sun.
Summers in the Middle East make me long for winter. Even bugs scurry into hiding or have to succumb to a fatal encounter. This is the time when our UAE farmers are burning out pests and bugs, driving the heat into the soil by covering them in plastic and allowing 45 degree plus temperatures to work their magic. While our hard-working farmers kill the bugs by turning up the heat, we are trying to find ways to keep our bodies cool!
Since plunging into the sea will reap no good reward and not everyone has access to personal or shared chilled pools, we have to find practical things to turn the temperature down a notch.
While we try to do the obvious by drinking way more water than we even feel we need, we also need to pay attention to the other things we put into our mouths as they also have an effect on how much water we retain to keep us hydrated in these harsh summers. As hot and humid as it gets during this time of year, there are some really delicious treats that come with it!
I have been as busy as a bee in my kitchen making ice creams, popsicles, salads and juices, taking advantage of the produce of the season. No one wants a super heavy humungous plate of pasta in the dead heat of summer or ice cream in the already chilly days of winter so we have to grab the chance while we have got. I believe we must eat the season and live the season!
I often marvel at how the fruits of each season perfectly provide all the nutrition we need to face the weather of the time of year. In winter, as we are chilled to our bones, we get the pumpkins, root vegetables and low growing cruciferous ones to warm us up as well as the sunny citrus to remind us of warmer times. In spring we get the oniony alliums and asparagus springing from the earth with a promise of warmer temperatures to come. And in summer, we get succulent vegetables and juicy fruits and like watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, mangoes, cherries and pineapples that help us hydrate our bodies with their high water content.
Summer is the season for salads, fruity juices, ice creams and other frozen treats. With the high temperatures we face daily in the Gulf, I say “Bring them on!”
If you love Halloumi and Watermelon Salad, you will love this one. If you have never tried that combo, never mind, as long as you like food, you will like this. Like Watermelon and Halloumi, Watermelon and Feta is a classic combination. They both have a very Mediterranean and Middle Eastern vibe and the flavours just fit perfectly together like a lizard on a limb.
The ingredients work so well together that this salad makes me eat watermelon with relish- something I have not done since zealously overdosing during my childhood summers. So if you are not a fan of any one ingredient, still give it a try because together they work succulent magic on your palate. Try it and let me know how you like it. It is great all summer day long!
Watermelon and Feta Salad with Dried Mint
2 cups cubed Watermelon
1 cup thickly sliced Cucumbers
¼ cup crumbled Feta Cheese
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
A generous pinch of Sea Salt
Freshly Cracked Pepper
1 teaspoons dried mint
Chopped Fresh Mint for garnish (optional)
The dried mint adds an earthy tone to the salad and the fresh one brightens it up. It is best to use both to add a greater depth of flavour, but if you ran out of the fresh stuff like I did (with all the minty drinks I have been making) simply use the dried ones in your pantry.