This watermelon, halloumi, and za’atar salad is a marvelous Middle Eastern concoction with watermelon, cheese, cucumber, olives, grapes, za’atar, and sumac. As refreshing as a dip in the Mediterranean.
This simple summer supper jumbles everything you might set out with cocktails or wine before dinner—summer fruit and vegetables and cheese–into a salad that goes just as perfectly with that summer evening glass of chenin blanc.–Renee Schettler Rossi
Watermelon, Halloumi and Za’atar Salad
- One block halloumi cheese cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) cubes
- 1/2 cup pitted black olives halved
- 1 cup packed fresh green za’atar leaves (not chopped) (or use a combination of fresh thyme, oregano, with just a touch of marjoram)
- 2 shallots diced
- 1 tablespoon sumac
- about 4 tablespoons Juice of 1 lemon
- about 3 tablespoons Juice of 1 lime
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon finely diced fresh chile such as jalapeño (optional)
- Sea salt
- 3 pounds watermelon seeded and cut into 1-inch (25-mm) cubes
- 1 cup seedless black or red grapes (about 30 grapes)
- 1 large or 2 small cucumbers peeled and coarsely chopped
- In a large bowl, combine the cheese, olives, za’atar, shallots, sumac, lemon juice, lime juice, oil, and chile, if using. Season with salt.
- Arrange the watermelon, grapes, and cucumber in a large serving bowl, add the cheese mixture, and serve.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This watermelon, halloumi and za’atar salad is lovely in warm weather! So bright and fresh! So many interesting textures and flavor contrasts and pretty customizable, depending on what other seasonal ingredients you have on hand.
This watermelon, halloumi and za’atar salad just screams summertime. The juicy watermelon and salty cheese blend perfectly with the freshness of the herbs and slight acidity of the citrus. It’s also a very forgiving salad and the proportions could be easily adjusted for taste, or even substitutions of some of the ingredients.
I could not find za’atar leaves, so I used a combination of oregano, marjoram, and thyme leaves. I think that I might just use oregano and thyme in the future, to suit my specific taste. I chose not to use the optional chile, but I could see how a little spicy bite could be delicious in this salad as well. I think that this is definitely a keeper.
This spin on a watermelon salad takes everything up a notch to make the flavours more complex and is a flexible template based on the season (you could swap in cherries for the grapes or a bit of tomato, and use a small amount of chopped red bell pepper if you were short on cucumbers). Knowing you need crunch+sweet+savoury to fill out the watermelon, you can adjust seasoning to your liking.
The halloumi behaves really well in the salad, and doesn’t break down quite like feta, so even on the second day it is still nice and distinct. If you know you will be eating this over two days, consider not mixing the melon/cucumber with the other ingredients until just before serving as the herbs really seemed stronger the next day, as did the shallot. We thought we might dice the shallot much smaller next time and use a bit less, and definitely made sure to have some nice fresh bread on hand to sop of the last bits of the liquid – it is a great summer salad that you would want to prep outside in the shade on a hot summer day (wishing I had a summer kitchen and my own herb garden).
The acid level is perfect–the more floral lime pairs well with lemon in just the right amount with olive oil and the sumac is a nice tang without heat (which you can control with jalapeno level – don’t leave that out).
After tasting the leftovers the second day, I added a bit more cucumber and watermelon to balance what I felt was a too dominant herb and shallot note. That was primarily due to the marjoram, which was the largest leaf form (and easiest to strip off the stems), and really needs to be a very minor player. This salad, and all the possible variation as we go through summer, is going to be a star player.
I didn’t have za’atar leaves and so used dried mixed herbs that contained marjoram, thyme, and oregano. I sprinkled a little of it though the ingredients, aware that it would seem stronger than if the fresh leaves had been used. I thought the flavours stayed separate in the final salad. Perhaps they would have merged more over a couple of days together.
The za’atar was not particularly evident in the mix, and the lemon and lime juice tasted like salad dressing made with vinegar. I thought there was a lot of the watermelon, grape, and cucumber mix and as I liked the taste of the salty cheese, olive and shallot mix more I would choose to add less of the melon mix and more of the cheese mix next time.
Originally published August 14, 2018