I have a weakness for American salads. And when I say weakness, I don’t necessarily mean I find them hopelessly delicious, although I do feel that way about some of them. No, what I find appealing about salads from the United States is how varied and out-and-out creative they are. Who else would plunk miniature marshmallows in the middle of lime Jello and call it a salad? Who?! And ambrosia salad? How wild is that? While today’s Watermelon Wedge Salad doesn’t pay tribute to the more outlandish dishes claiming to be salads. Today’s recipe gets its format from a particularly beloved slice of Americana, or perhaps I should say wedge.
The classic wedge salad made its debut in print in 1916 in Marion Harris Neil’s cookbook, “Salads, Sandwiches, and Chafing Dish Recipes”. The original didn’t include the now ubiquitous toppings of bacon bits, tomatoes, and blue cheese dressing. But Neil’s recipe did call for a wedge of iceberg lettuce. The wedge salad reached the peak of its popularity during the 1950s and 60s when it acquired its bacon and blue cheese and found a home on steakhouse menus. It remains a steakhouse staple but its popularity on other restaurant menus has since waned. Following the 1970s, the wedge salad virtually went extinct.
Today, the wedge salad is enjoying a bit of a resurgence fueled by nostalgia and a general interest in retro cookery. But the re-emergence of the wedge salad has left me wondering why iceberg lettuce should have all the fun. Now, it has become very fashionable to disparage iceberg lettuce. It is mostly water after all, which makes it very light on flavor and nutrition. But I actually like iceberg lettuce. It has a very refreshing texture with a crunch that can’t be beaten. And of all the less-than-good-for-you things you could potentially pile onto your plate, surely iceberg lettuce is the lesser of those evils. No, I didn’t change out the iceberg because I don’t like it or agree with it. I swapped it out to have a little fun. And what’s more fun and summer-friendly than a watermelon?
Now, I didn’t use my watermelon wedge as a vehicle for the usual wedge salad calling cards. But you could easily keep your toppings classic. I have a hunch blue cheese dressing and watermelon will get along famously. And bacon bits?! I mean, what isn’t compatible with bacon? Pairing something salty with sweet watermelon will always yield delicious results. But I wanted to do something a little different with my watermelon wedge salad, so I took it in a Middle Eastern direction by pairing it with falafel spiced chickpeas and a creamy tahini dressing. And I did not regret my choice.
The first thing to tackle in the Watermelon Wedge Salad recipe is the chickpeas. They take the most time but almost all of it is blissfully inactive. Start with canned or cooked chickpeas and dry them thoroughly with a lint-free cloth. We want to eliminate as much moisture as possible because moisture will hinder their crispiness. Dress the chickpeas simply at first. Just salt and olive oil will do. We’re going to roast them at a high oven temperature, so we want to keep the seasoning light. Dry spices tend to burn in a high oven resulting in an acrid flavor. So instead, we’re going to roast them to crispy perfection and then add a cocktail of spices when they are hot from the oven. I’m telling you, these are the best roast chickpeas I’ve ever had.
Once the chickpeas are roasting in the oven, it’s time to tackle the tahini dressing. I love this dressing because it comes together quickly in a food processor and requires no chopping. Simply plop the tahini, garlic, salt, and lemon juice into a food processor and give them a blitz. Stream in a little water to thin out the dressing and that’s about the it. So simple, and so delicious.
The rest of this recipe is more or less light chopping and assembly. Now, unsurprisingly, it is difficult to balance toppings on a watermelon wedge’s edge. So that’s why I like to serve this dish in a pasta coupe, so the toppings can tumble down the wedge and accumulate on either side of the melon. The dressing thankfully coats the watermelon beautifully. And I’m sure it goes without saying, but this is a knife and fork salad.
So that’s everything you need to know about this Watermelon Wedge Salad with Falafel Spiced Chickpeas. A fun and playful update on the classic wedge salad. It’s sweet, salty, and utterly refreshing. What more could you want from a summer salad?
Watermelon Wedge Salad with Falafel Spiced Chickpeas
- 1 Small Baking Sheet
- 2 lint-free towels
- 1 Food Processor
- 1 (540 ml, 19 fl oz) can chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt divided
- ½ cup tahini
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic peeled
- ¼ cup water**
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼-½ tsp cayenne pepper ***
- ¼ tsp ground coriander
- Fresh ground pepper
- ½ mini watermelon cut into wedges, rind removed
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes sliced
- 1-2 dill pickle finely diced
- ¼ cup pickled turnip finely diced
- ¼ cup fresh parsley leaves tightly packed
- ¼ cup fresh dill tightly packed
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Line a small baking sheet with a lint-free towel. Place the chickpeas on top and rub them dry with another lint-free towel. Bundle the chickpeas up in the bottom towel and set them aside.1 (540 ml, 19 fl oz) can chickpeas
- Line the now empty baking sheet with parchment paper and pour the chickpeas onto the baking sheet. Drizzle the chickpeas with the olive oil and sprinkle with half of the salt.2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp salt
- Place the chickpeas in the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Give the pan a shake and roast for an additional 15 minutes.
- While the chickpeas are roasting place the tahini, the remaining salt, the garlic, and the lemon juice in a large food processor. Set the food processor to low and stream in the water. Pour the finished dressing into a bowl and chill while you prepare the remainder of the salad.1 tsp salt, ½ cup tahini, ¼ cup lemon juice, 1 clove garlic, ¼ cup water**
- When the chickpeas are done roast, take them out of the oven and transfer them to a large bowl. Add the cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, ground coriander, and a fair amount of fresh ground pepper. Give the chickpeas a toss to ensure they are evenly coated. Set them aside to cool.1 tsp ground cumin, ½ tsp ground cinnamon, ¼-½ tsp cayenne pepper ***, ¼ tsp ground coriander, Fresh ground pepper
- Place a watermelon wedge in the center of a pasta coupe or bowl. Spoon a liberal amount of the tahini dressing on top and garnish with a handful of the chickpeas, the tomatoes, dill pickle, pickled turnip, and fresh parsely and dill. Serve immediately with a knife and fork.½ mini watermelon, 1 cup cherry tomatoes, 1-2 dill pickle, ¼ cup pickled turnip, ¼ cup fresh parsley leaves, ¼ cup fresh dill