It’s been one of those summers where each day seems to feels hotter than the one before. Even going outside to run errands feels like the biggest effort when the sun is beating down. Needless to say, the last thing I’ve wanted to do this summer is turn on the oven—even my stove-usage has been at an all time low. Lucky for me, salads are always of my favorite things to whip up all year round, but nothing quite beats a crisp, summer watermelon salad. Someone recently asked me if I ever get bored of salads since I eat them all the time (Ha!..Never). While I could see how eating the same salad everyday might be a bit monotonous, experimenting with seasonal produce and new ingredients keep my salad game fresh and exciting. So I happily snuck into the back of my freezer for some paneer, brought out my ultimate spice blend, and chopped up my favorite summer ingredient for a super easy and delicious plate.
Here’s how to make my favorite summer salad—it’s got a spicy Indian kick to it (no surprises there!), is bursting with cooling flavors, and is sure to wow anyone you serve it to.
While you might recognize most of these ingredients, the wild card here is the paneer. I’ve shared paneer before on Global Kitchen (remember these Naan Pizzas?) but as a refresher, paneer is an acid-set cheese that is similar to halloumi in that you can pan-fry or grill it without it melting. My mom would make big batches of paneer to keep in the fridge for vegetable dishes growing up, and while I don’t make paneer myself, you can find it at some grocery stores and any Indian or ethnic store.
To add an extra kick of flavor to this salad, I slice up the paneer and toss it in a bit of olive oil and a heaping spoon of chaat masala. Chaat masala is a spice blend used in lots of South Asian dishes and usually consists of spices like mango powder, cumin, ginger, black pepper, hing, and chili powder. It’s more sweet and tangy with a kick in flavor than garam masala, and while it may seem strange, it pairs perfectly with fruit. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve seen my mom with a plate of sliced pears or apples that she’s sprinkled with chaat masala, and after many years I’ve finally jumped on the train.
I kept assembly simple here with just a big bunch of greens, the paneer, and sliced melons which I always have bowls of in my fridge during the summer. There’s just something so refreshing about biting into a big chunk of watermelon and getting that sweet flavor.
The dressing is super simple, so feel free to adjust as you like! This would even be delicious with the addition of tomatoes, cucumbers, or even some slices of avocados. The best part of a salad plate is that you can add things and experiment as you like, so let me know you favorite combos!