I first fell under the spell of the sea as a dinghy sailor on England’s eastern coast. A number of years later, my husband, Pete, and I owned Don Quixote II, a Northwind 435 that we sailed across the Atlantic on our honeymoon. We settled in the British Virgin Islands, where we’ve worked as captain and chef aboard yachts for the past six years. In my early days as a charter chef, I was fortunate to have a lovely guest aboard who went on to become my food guru. She opened my eyes to the wider issues behind cooking for guests, including how to create dishes and menus that reflect and respect the local environment. I’ve also embraced the notion of pairing dishes to complement the weather.
In the balmy Caribbean, where our current yacht, Kings Ransom, a Matrix Silhouette 76 catamaran, charters throughout the winter, I find this arugula and watermelon salad a cool way to please the palate in hot weather. Originally I made this with olives and feta, but, like my cooking, the recipe has evolved. The cool, sweet melon and creamy goat cheese create a balance with the tangy citrus and cumin in the dressing. It looks beautiful on the plate, and my guests’ eyes always grow wide in anticipation of tasting this mouthwatering concoction. It has yet to let me down!
Arugula and Watermelon Salad Recipe
Makes eight servings
- 6 cups watermelon, seeded, cubed, drained
- 1 small red onion, sliced thinly
- 12 cups arugula
- 1/2 cup pine nuts, dry roasted
- 3/4 cup goat cheese (or substitute feta)
- Cracked black pepper, to taste
Spicy Citrus Dressing
- 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 4 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted
- 1/2 teaspoon Creole seasoning
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
In a nonstick skillet, dry-roast pine nuts and toast cumin seeds, then set aside. Combine watermelon, onion, arugula and pine nuts. Sprinkle with goat cheese and pepper. To make dressing, whisk together lemon juice, orange juice, balsamic vinegar, mustard, cumin seeds and seasoning. Add olive oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified. Drizzle dressing over salad, toss, and serve immediately.
Note: This recipe for arugula and watermelon salad is excerpted from Dining on Deck: BVI Charter Yacht Crews Share Their Favorite Recipes, edited by Traci O’Dea and Janet Oliver ($12.50; 2012; Charter Yacht Society of the BVI; email [email protected]). If you want to try a taste of the delectable fare served by British Virgin Islands charter chefs aboard your own boat, this book offers a delightful sampling. The lavishly illustrated, easy-to-follow collection of recipes for appetizers, salads, main dishes and more has a tropical flair that will make your mouth water. If you’re headed south, take this with you.