Watermelon & Serrano Chili Salad
I often trot off to see a lovely aesthetician that has a wee little mini-spa set up in her basement. I was referred to her by a friend who had also been referred by a friend…who was referred by a friend. It’s just that kind of place. You’ll never find her on the internet or even in the yellow pages, and to be honest I was even somewhat surprised on my first visit when she handed me a business card. The word of mouth, however, was advertisement enough. She keeps an impeccably clean shop, charges ridiculously low prices, has 4 cats which apparently only speak Hebrew, does good work, and takes crazy last minute clients like me on almost no notice (“Hi! It’s Tina!! I was just wondering if you could fit me in for a wax….in about 20 minutes, I’m right around the corner….”).
The thing is, all that money she earns (which I’m sure Revenue Canada would be quite interested to know about) is frequently put to good work, and she vacations 3-4 times a year for up to a month at a time. I find myself charting my bikini waxes to coincide for when she gets back from Israel but before she goes to France. Well, until I totally dropped the ball and missed that narrow window of opportunity between when I was ready for a wax and when she went on vacation.
You can’t imagine my panic. I’m due for a wax and my aesthetician is gone for a month. I mean, A MONTH!! I can’t wait a month for a wax. In two more weeks you could set me up next to Chewbacca and he’d look clean shaven next to this hirsute femme. Horrors, oh woe, oh dastardly bad timing on my part! I tried to be reasonable. I took a deep breath and dialed the number for my old (exorbitantly expensive) spa and booked myself in for the first time in almost 2 years. That was mistake number one. They always know. They always take it personally. If you’re going to go back for your first visit in years, you’d better come up with a mighty good story for why you went to jail in the first place.
My aesthetician’s name was Mallor. No, not Mallory, just….Mallor. She had the pallor of a Mallor. She snapped on those rubber gloves like a surgeon and regarded me cooly.
Mallor: “Strip from the waist down.“
They usually leave the room to let you do this with a bit of dignity, but not Mallor. Oh no, not Mallor.
Mallor: “You haven’t been here in quite some time.”
Me: “Well…hehe…*gulp*…yes, that’s true. It’s just that I, um, I moved. Far away. But, uh, well now I’m back and……“
Mallor: “You look different. Put on weight?“
Just like that. Totally deadpan. If I wasn’t half naked and frozen in a spread-eagle position on the bed I would have crawled underneath it and rocked back and forth until she left the room.
Me: “Um, yeah, I guess -“
Mallor squinted down at my legs with what really looked like a malevolent sneer from my angle of fragile vulnerability.
Mallor: “Your thighs. They’re chafed from rubbing together.”
(Oh Christ, is this over yet?)
Me: “Oh, uh – yeah. I’ve started doing a little bit of jogging, because I’ve never been much of an athletic type but you see my partner runs and I agreed that -”
Mallor: “Keep jogging. Maybe your thighs won’t rub together.”
Ten minutes later my bulging thighs and I slunk out of the room. I grudgingly paid my $70 to the smiling lady at the desk who had the gall to ask, “So how did it GO?” and sped home as fast as my little car would carry me. Oh, it went. It went FINE. There’s nothing like the cruel and maleficent chiding of the woman who’s ripping wax off your special girl areas to make you feel so little, and yet so very big.
As a result of this latest chapter of indignity in the pitiable saga of humiliation which is my life, it looks like my dinner trends for the next little while are going to have a little bit less cheese and a little bit more goddamned fat free.
Watermelon & Chili Salad
Serves 6 as a side
- 1/2 medium watermelon (6-7 cups) *
- 2 serrano chili peppers **
- 1.5 tsp lime zest
- juice of 1.5 limes
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 green onions
- handful mint (1/3 cup chopped)
- small handful cilantro (1/4 cup chopped)
- salt and pepper to taste
*Keep the watermelon chilled until you’re ready to cut it up.
**If you don’t have serrano chili peppers then jalapenos would be a fine substitute. The heat in a chili pepper varies according to plant, and if you have very spicy jalapenos or serrano chilis then you may want to use slightly less.
Cut the chili peppers in half and scoop out the seeds and membranes. Finely chop the chili into a small mince.
Zest 1.5 tsp of lime zest into a small bowl. Squeeze in the juice of one and a half nice plump limes and add the rice vinegar.
Add the chili and season the dressing with salt and pepper, remembering that you’re not just adding salt to a dressing, you’re seasoning 6-7 cups of watermelon as well. It doesn’t hurt to have a bit of a generous spirit with the salt pig. Whisk the dressing together to combine. The dressing can be made up to a few days in advance and kept refrigerated to really let the peppers steep. Not that I could ever wait that long, but the option is out there.
Slice away the green and white rind from the watermelon.
Cut the watermelon up into generous 1 inch cubes.
Discard the stems from the mint and give the leaves a good chop. Chop up the cilantro, stems and all. I love cilantro stems because they’re so flavorful and they just add a nice bit of watery crunch wherever they go. Finely slice both the white and green parts of the onions. Do not add the herbs to the salad until you’re ready to serve it, or else they’ll just go all wilty-like.
Pour the dressing over the watermelon cubes and throw on the herbs. Give everything a good toss together with your hands which are far more gentle than the average mixing spoon. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if needed.
The watermelon salad was a light and refreshing side dish to the smoky heat of broiled tilapia in a ginger/garlic/lime/sriracha marinade under a mound of crispy sweet potato threads.
But enough about the fish, let’s get back to the salad……
Last summer the two main salads that Mike and I had on serious rotation were an orzo salad with roasted tomatoes, vegetables and black olives, and a salad of chickpeas, cherry tomatoes and baby bocconcini balls. This year, however, I have a feeling that fresher and lighter food will be making the rounds across our picnic table, and this sweet watermelon and spicy serrano salad is sure to be a frequent flyer.