Watermelon and Arugula Salad with Maple Poppy Seed Dressing

Watermelon and Arugula Salad with Maple Poppy Seed Dressing
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watermelon and arugula salad with maple poppy seed dressing
The key to salads is variety. Mix up the flavors, the textures, and the colors.

We check the CSA website before we head down to pick up our produce. It gives us a bit of time to think about what we might make that would help finish up what we have in the house along with some really fresh vegetables. This week, we saw arugula on the list. Now, the arugula we get isn’t like what you can get in the store. What Farmer Frank grows seems to be super arugula, meaning it’s peppery. Very peppery. We thought we’d pair the peppery arugula with some cooling left-over watermelon in a salad. It turned out so well we had it two days in a row.

We wanted a dressing that would go with the salad, so, after a bit of thought, we came up with the idea of a poppy seed dressing, mainly because our smoked paprika croutons were made from poppy seed crusted bread. (To make these, simply cube bread, toss with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and smoked paprika. Bake 20 minutes at 350°F, turn off oven and let croutons dry an additional 10 minutes in the hot oven.) From there, we thought about a creamy poppy seed, but that might not go as well with watermelon, so we settled on a maple syrup vinaigrette.

Watermelon and Arugula Salad with Maple Poppy Seed Dressing

Yield: 2 salads

Watermelon and Arugula Salad with Maple Poppy Seed Dressing


  • 2 cups cubed watermelon, seeded
  • 1/2 bunch arugula
  • 4 dried apricots, sliced
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries
  • 2 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
  • 2 Tbs chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup croutons
  • 1 thin slice red onions, optional
  • For the dressing
  • 1 Tbs maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 Tbs white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1/2 Tbs poppy seeds
  • 1/2 tsp mustard
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Abbreviated Instructions

For the salad

Divide the watermelon between two large bowls and divide remaining ingredients between the two salads.

For the dressing

Place all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until emulsified. Pour over salad and serve immediately.


Ingredient discussion:

We know a number of people who don’t like goat cheese, and we understand. It can taste goat-y. But, know that not all goat cheeses are the same, so, if you’re willing to try a few, you might find one you like. Failing that, we think this would be good with a blue cheese crumbled on top. We really like Gorgonzola; it’s not as strong as some blue cheeses. Of course, you know best what you like on your salads, so change the ingredients as you see fit. For the dressing, you want 100% pure maple syrup. It’s just better.

Procedure in detail:

For the Salad:
watermelon and arugula salad with maple poppy seed dressing
If you have them, olives and pepperoncinis might make a good addition to your salad.

Layer. We like to layer our salads and not toss them. They seem more fun to eat; as you dig down into the salad, you find new fruits, nuts, or lettuce. So, we divided the watermelon between a couple of large bowls, topped it with arugula, then kept adding things we had that are good on salads: goat cheese, dried apricots, dried cherries, some nuts, croutons, and, before you know it, we had a salad with a wide variety of textures and flavors to make it interesting. That’s the secret of great salads: mix it up.

For the dressing:
maple poppy seed dressing
We have a little whisk that fits perfectly in a measuring cup. A full-sized whisk and a bowl work, too.

Whisk. Some people are adamant about mixing all the ingredients except the oil, then drizzling in the oil while whisking. We aren’t. We don’t find it makes any difference, so we simply place all the ingredients in a measuring cup with a spout for easy pouring, and whisk them together with a small whisk. If you only have a larger whisk, use an appropriately-sized bowl. Once whisked, pour over salad and serve immediately.

As we said above, we liked this salad so much we had it two days in a row, both made pretty much the same way, and with the same dressing. We really like the maple flavor in the dressing; it seems to match the watermelon and the poppy seeds, bringing all the flavors together. An easy five stars.

Worth the trouble?

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