We are not a particularly Handy Family, so I was surprised when LL suggested we spend Memorial Day weekend sanding and re=varnishing the kitchen cabinets. They definitely needed to be slathered with love after all these years of heavy use (18 years, really, since we built the kitchen? Wow!) And we had the time; when you live next to the beach, you tend to stay away from it on days the crowds appear. Like Memorial Day. So we enlisted the help of Handy Friends, dug around in the shed to find the palm and detail sanders left over from a different round of remodeling, stocked up on sandpaper, and away we went.

But sanding is a long and dusty process. Especially when old friends stop by with bottles of wine and Kid One shows up for a visit and the new Marianne’s Ice Cream shop opens on the corner that very day and the dog wanted to take a long walk. I didn’t end up helping with the work at all . . . there was lunch to make and dinner to pick up early from Aptos St BBQ because they often sell out early, and then we needed more sandpaper, and suddenly it was supper time and we realized that this project was going to take waaaaaaaaay longer than we anticipated.

Just when we were on the edge of feeling disheartened at the enormity of this thing we were not going to finish, our lovely friend Barbara showed up with this gorgeous, festive watermelon salad: chopped up fruit tossed with minced red onion, feta cheese, and mint leaves, the hollowed-out rind serving as a bowl.


It was the perfect summer kick-off celebratory dish . . . and pretty, too! I’ve made it a few times since; it’s simple and easily customizable to your tastes. Here you go:

Watermelon salad for a summer BBQ
Prep time
Total time
Side salad best served cold on a summer day
Recipe type: salad
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6+
  • ½ large watermelon or 1 small watermelon
  • ⅛ - ¼ cup minced red onion, to taste
  • 6-12 fresh mint leaves, julienned
  • 2-3 mint leaves for garnish
  • ⅛ - ¼ cup crumbled feta, to taste
  1. Use a melon baller to scoop out bite-sized pieces of watermelon.
  2. Gently toss with smaller quantities of red onion, mint leaves, and feta. Adjust to taste and size of watermelon.
  3. Place the mixture back in the watermelon rind.
  4. Garnish with whole mint leaves.
  5. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve