Ottoman Watermelon and Olive Salad

Tina Wasserman
Recipe by
Tina Wasserman

For almost 3,000 years, there has been a Jewish presence in the region of the world now associated with Turkey. At one time, the Ottoman Empire encompassed lands from the Persian Gulf in the east to Hungary, Bulgaria, and Greece in the northwest, and from Egypt and Palestine in the south to the Caucasus mountains in the north, with Istanbul designated its capital.

I first tasted this wonderful combination of flavors on the island of Santorini in the Adriatic Sea. As bright as the iconic sun-drenched, white stucco walls and blue domed rooftops are on this island, this dish is vibrant with color and flavor to match its surroundings. Enjoy this dish any time of year, but especially when watermelon is at its sweetest.

3 Cups watermelon, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 very small red onion, cut into thin rings (or 1/2-cup sliced half rings)
1/2 Cup Kalamata olives, pitted
1/2 Cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 Cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Pinch of sugar
2 Tablespoons chiffonade of fresh mint
1 Teaspoon sumac (optional)
  1. Arrange the watermelon, onion rings, and olives on a platter. Sprinkle with the crumbled feta cheese.

  2. Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and sugar together in a small, screw-top jar to make a vinaigrette.

  3. Sprinkle the mint over the platter, and drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad.

  4. Dust the salad with the sumac and serve.

Additional Notes
  • If preparing the salad in advance, keep ingredients in separate bowls so that the flavor of the onions doesn’t overpower the other ingredients.
  • It is important to pour dressing on the salad at the last minute so that the watermelon won’t absorb the liquid and become mushy.
  • Sumac is a red berry grown on bushes throughout the Middle East. Its flavor is tart like a lemon. Paprika may be substituted for color, but the flavor will be different.