Easy dinner recipes: Melon salads and soup in under an hour

Love the bright flavor and subtle sweet perfume of fresh melon? Well, they're in season and there are so many ways to use them. Whether you're looking for a light dinner or a colorful summer side, may we suggest some ideas:

Take everything you love about summer and arrange it beautifully on a plate. Juicy heirloom tomato wedges and bright chunks of cool watermelon come together perfectly in this salad from the Hungry Cat, punctuated with the light spice of arugula and floral notes of fresh basil and mint. Crumbled feta adds a nice hint of richness, and the tangy watermelon vinaigrette brings it all together.

Chef Todd Aarons of Tierra Sur was happy to share his recipe for a light, refreshing melon gazpacho, perfect for a hot day. He suggests using heirloom melons from the farmers market, such as those from Weiser Family Farms. He particularly likes their Sugar Queen, butterscotch or Ogen melons. Aarons also suggests using slightly underripe melons, since you don't want the soup to be too sweet.

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Or try this: a watermelon and feta salad with cumin-lime dressing from Food editor Russ Parsons. He writes that "what really makes the dish work is the flavor pairing of power with power. The watermelon is so explosively juicy and sweet that you can add all kinds of big tastes — not just salty feta but also jalapeños! toasted cumin! lime! fresh mint! — without overwhelming it. In this watermelon salad, the whole is even greater than the sum of its parts, no matter how large they might be."

For more ideas, click through our easy dinner recipes gallery and check out our Dinner Tonight page, devoted to recipes that can be made in an hour or less. Looking for a particular type of recipe? Comment below or email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com.


Total time: 40 minutes

Servings: 4

Note: Adapted from the Hungry Cat in Hollywood. To make a watermelon reduction, juice all or part of a watermelon (using a juicer, a blender or food processor and straining), then simmer until the juice is reduced by half.

Watermelon vinaigrette

1/2 shallot, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

1/4 to 1/3 cup watermelon reduction

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper

In a medium bowl, whisk together the shallot, garlic, mustard and vinegar. Slowly whisk in the watermelon reduction, then whisk in the oil until fully incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This makes about 1 1/3 cups vinaigrette, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe; the vinaigrette will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 1 week.

Tomato and watermelon salad