Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Watermelon radish, fennel and avocado salad with whipped feta dressing

Winter can be monochromatic, especially in northwestern Europe. There are days when it seems like a dark veil is covering the whole sky, allowing only a few rays of sun to pierce through; the continuous rain makes it even worse. It can be romantic—at least that’s how I viewed it when I first moved to Holland from Greece, and it still feels like that sometimes—but mostly, these gloomy winters can be quite tiring, affecting both body and soul.

Seeing bursts of color in the form of fruits and vegetables is invigorating. Citrus, beetroots (more on those later), radishes, cauliflowers, carrots and cabbages are the saving grace of winter.

With the glorious reds, greens, pinks, yellows, golden of the citrus, with the purple of the cauliflowers and cabbages and, of course, the unexpected and thrilling fuchsia-pink color of the watermelon radishes; that psychedelic color that only nature could have dreamed up.

With the green and off-white surrounding it, it looks like a tiny watermelon waiting to be savored. If only I had some nigella seeds to artfully place on one slice, it would be magical, right?

Being an extremely visual person, I get turned on by color and hues and tones, and making this colorful salad was exciting. Even though pink is not my color by any stretch of the imagination, this one was rather cute and against the bright green of the avocado and the ivory of the fennel, it was really a color-fest if there ever was one.

The flavor of the salad was vibrant, refreshing and light with the crunchy, slightly peppery and bitter radish, the creamy, sweet avocado and crisp fennel, and the whipped feta dressing tying everything together, because this dressing, let me tell you, is key. It’s the secret of this salad and one of the most delicious dressings this feta-obsessed Greek has tasted. The salty tang of the feta is smoothed over by the (real) Greek yoghurt and Greek olive oil and the sprinkling of sumac is the proverbial cherry on top, adding a touch of acidity and a faint spiciness that balances the flavors of the salad.

Paired with a piece of grilled or oven-baked salmon and fresh bread, it is a perfect meal.

I leave you with this song. See you here again soon.

Watermelon radish, fennel and avocado salad with whipped feta dressing and sumac

The watermelon radish is an heirloom Asian Daikon radish. It is mildly peppery with a crisp texture and belongs to the same family as rocket, broccolo and turnips.
If you can’t find it, substitute with daikon or another type of mild-flavored radish.

Yield: 4 salad servings or 2 main-course servings / 400 ml feta dressing


for the whipped feta dressing
200 g feta (Greek of course!)
120 g (real) Greek yoghurt, full-fat
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp white balsamic vinegar (or white-wine vinegar)
Freshly ground white pepper, 4-5 grind of the pepper mill

for the salad
3 medium-sized watermelon radishes, peeled and sliced very thinly (preferably with a mandoline)
1-2 avocados, sliced thinly
½ large fennel bulb, sliced
Lemon juice
Olive oil

Fennel fronds (from the fennel bulb), for garnishing
Ground sumac, for sprinkling over the salad

Special equipment: food processor, mandoline (optional)


for the whipped feta dressing
If your feta is too salty, soak it in cold water for 15 minutes (in one piece). Drain and use in the recipe.
Cut the feta in small cubes and place it along with the rest of the ingredients for the dressing in a food processor. Process until you have a smooth and creamy mixture.
Empty it in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the fridge until ready to use. It will firm up a bit in the fridge.
You can make it 4 days ahead and keep it covered in the fridge.

to make the salad
Arrange the watermelon radishes on a large, shallow plate. Brush with a little olive oil.
Toss the sliced fennel with a little lemon juice (1 tsp) and olive oil in a bowl.
Brush the sliced avocado with a little lemon juice and olive oil to keep it from turning brown too quickly.

Top the radishes with the fennel and avocado and scatter the fennel fronds over the top.
Drizzle with a generous amount of the feta dressing and sprinkle with sumac. Keep extra dressing handy in a bowl at the table for extra helpings.


  1. That is the most beautiful salad ever. I need to get my hands on some watermelon radishes!


    1. Hi Sues. Thanks! I think they are widely available in the US, am I right?

  2. Could you tell me where do you get your watermelon radish in The Hague? murat

    1. Hi Murat. I bought these from AH XL. They had them for the whole month of January as "the vegetable of the month". But I also find them at the Boerenmarkt at Spui and some off the grid veggie shops around the center.

  3. This is just gorgeous, Magda - I plan to serve it at my next dinner party! While we certainly aren't deprived of sunshine here, we still get such great enjoyment out of bright and beautiful foods - and this dish definitely qualifies! xo, David

  4. I love watermelon radishes and happily they are plentiful where I live. That shock of pink always brings a smile, especially in the drear of winter. Your salad is stunning. Luscious dressing too--great tip about soaking the extra-salty feta.

  5. Your salad looks gorgeous Magda. I will definitely make this dressing and try and find this agian vegtable. Lovely. Lara

  6. Know what you mean about those grey days needing a punch of color. Kiwis and pomegranates are always in our fruit bowl :)

  7. What a beautiful salad, and just reading about it got me hungry. I don't think I have ever seen watermelon radishes here but I am definitely going to make the feta dressing with the sumac sprinkled on top!!

  8. What an amazing dish! Presentation is perfect and I am sure the taste is even better! Great job Madga!

  9. Those radishes! I don't think I've ever seen anything like them in the shops, just gorgeous.