Spicy Watermelon and Tahini Salad With Pistachios and Mint

Time30 minutes
YieldsServes 6 to 8
A salad of spiced chunks of watermelon drizzled with dressing, topped with sliced chiles and pistachios on a plate
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times; prop styling by Jennifer Sacks)
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This salad adds a spicy richness to lean, sweet watermelon. Sprinkling the melon with salt and sugar for 20 minutes draws out excess liquid to concentrate the melon’s flavor; it also seasons the melon cubes beyond their surface. And as a bonus, the salty-sweet liquid that drains out of them does double duty for removing the raw harshness of the jalapeño chiles that get soaked in it. If you want a less spicy dressing, remove the seeds from the chile before adding the slices to the blender. Similarly, if you want a less spicy salad, omit the remaining chile slices added at the end. If you want to use a mortar and pestle to make the dressing, grind the spices first, then crush the chile slices and garlic until smooth, before finally whisking in the rest of the ingredients.


Place the watermelon in a large colander set in a large bowl. Sprinkle the watermelon liberally with salt and sugar, then toss the watermelon to ensure it is evenly mixed. Transfer this setup to the refrigerator and let the watermelon stand and drain for at least 20 minutes.


Meanwhile, make the dressing: First, place a couple of small ice cubes in a measuring cup, then fill it to the ½-cup mark with cold water and let this sit while you make the rest of the dressing so that the water is ice-cold but the cubes are a little melted.


Combine the coriander and cumin seeds in a small skillet over medium heat and cook, swirling occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer the seeds to a small blender and process until finely ground. Add one third of the chile slices and the garlic cloves followed by the lemon juice and let stand for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place the remaining chile slices under the colander holding the watermelon in the fridge so they are floating in the liquid that has drained out of the melon.


Add the tahini and half of the mint to the blender. Add the reserved ice-cold water to the blender and blend until the sauce is smooth and emulsified; you should have just under 1½ cups. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.


Using your hands, lift the watermelon pieces from the colander and transfer them to a large serving platter where they can be in more or less one layer. Neatly drizzle the tahini sauce evenly over the watermelon but do not mix them together. Scatter the soaked chile slices over the watermelon, then sprinkle with the pistachios and remaining half of the mint. Serve cold.