Country Panzanella With Watermelon Dressing

Serves 6-8 as a meal.  This wonderful summer salad is adapted from one from the NYTimes and feels like summer is here...and, it is!
Dressing:
  • ½ pound piece of skin-on watermelon, seeds discarded
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  •  Kosher salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and grated
  • 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • ½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ cup white wine vinegar
  • ½ cup olive oil
Salad:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds watermelon, rind discarded cut into 1-inch pieces (about 4 packed cups)
  • 3 medium heirloom tomatoes (about 1 3/4 to 2 pounds), cut into 1-inch-wide wedges (about 5 loose cups)
  • 1 medium seedless cucumber (about 1/2 pound), trimmed, halved lengthwise then sliced 1/4-inch-thick (about 2 cups)
  • 1 small red onion (about 4 ounces), peeled and sliced (about 1 loose cup)
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup crumbled feta
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt. to taste, once salad is assembled

Make the dressing: Using a coarse grater set over a medium bowl, grate the watermelon flesh then rind, grating the rind all the way to the skin. (You should have about 1 cup grated watermelon.) Discard the firm skin. Add the sugar and 1 teaspoon salt; stir to dissolve the sugar and salt grains. Allow the mixture to sit for at least 10 minutes.

Add the garlic, mustard, red-pepper flakes, ground black pepper, vinegar and oil. Whisk together (or transfer to a mason jar, cover and shake vigorously). The dressing makes 2 cups, and will keep, refrigerated, up to 1 week; shake before use.

In a large serving bowl, combine the watermelon, tomatoes, cucumber and red onion. Drain any excess liquid before adding the morsels and half the basil. Drizzle with 1/4 cup of the dressing and taste for salt and pepper. Divide among individual bowls, if you like. Top with crumbled feta, remaining basil leaves and spoon additional dressing over the top.

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