Upgrade Watermelon With Bacon!

Every year, my friends throw an “Aporkalypse” party, in which the hosts require guests to bring dishes inspired by all things pig. Porcine edibles have included, but are not limited to: bacon cupcakes, the Bacon Explosion, BLT salad, pork meatloaf wrapped in bacon, scrapple layer cake, pork belly sliders, pork roll infused tequila, bacon infused vodka, thinly sliced home-cured pancetta, and bacon wrapped in bacon wrapped in turkey bacon.  I’ve still yet to puzzle out whether the name “Aporkalypse” comes from the idea that, should the world end that night, we’d all go pleasantly sated on pork, or, whether it warns of the gastrointestinal distress that usually follows the evening.

Given the richness of most dishes—and the inevitable post-Aporkalypse dehydration—I decided to go lighter this year, offering a dish that still showcases pork, but didn’t pummel your taste buds with it. Because, honestly, there is such as thing as too much bacon.

After sending out a call for recipes, Chef Michael Fiorelli from mar’sel at Terrnea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes submitted the winner. Fiorelli takes a ripe seedless watermelmon, dices it up, and then marinates it in salt, pepper, olive oil, and rice wine vinegar. To up the flavor and texture, he tosses the marinated watermelon with salty feta cheese, crunchy seeds, fresh basil, and, of course, savory bacon crumbles. The sweet-salty-floral-crunchy combo will make you rethink straight-up watermelon and maybe even teach you that, sometimes, with bacon less can taste so much more.

Summer watermelon salad with crispy bacon, feta cheese, torn basil, and toasted pumpkin seeds

Recipe by Chef Michael Fiorelli from mar’sel at Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes

What you’ll need:
1 medium seedless watermelon, peeled and diced (about 8 cups)
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
12 bacon strips, small diced
1 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted and lightly salted*
1 small bunch basil, leaves picked and roughly torn
3 ounces rice wine vinegar
1 ounce extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp finely cracked black pepper

How to make it:
1. After dicing the watermelon, place the cubes a colander over a large bowl and set in the refrigerator to drain while preparing the rest of the salad.

  1. In a large pan, slowly render the diced bacon until crispy. Discard bacon fat and set bacon aside on a paper towel to cool.

  2. When ready to serve toss the watermelon with the salt, pepper, oil, and vinegar and allow to marinate for 10 minutes. Pull the watermelon out of the oil and vinegar marinade leaving the excess liquid behind. Transfer to a 9 x 9 casserole dish or a large shallow bowl. Top with torn basil, toasted pumpkin seeds, feta and bacon. Serves 10.

*I used hulled sunflower seeds—tasted great.