Conscious Cook: Cucumber and watermelon salad is perfect for steamy days

“The summer looks out from her brazen tower, through the flashing bars of July” —Francis Thompson

Sizzling heat and humidity asserts itself with such brazen authority during the month of July. The intensity of the summer sun reaches deep into the root of all creation, empowering and depleting with equal force.

To maintain a level of good health and humor, proper hydration is vital during these sun-soaked days. It takes very little time to become severely dehydrated while mowing the lawn, gardening, exercising or sunbathing. Drinking plenty of water and including fruits and vegetables with a high water content will help stave off dizziness, lethargy and general heat and humidity induced malaise.

Soothing, cooling watermelons and cucumbers contain mighty amounts of water and are perfect hydration foods. Crisp, cooling cucumbers are bursting with nutritious benefits. High in vitamins B and C, cucumbers also contain copper, phosphorous, potassium and magnesium. With a fair amount of fiber, eating more cucumbers may help with both digestion and elimination. Cucumbers provide relief to tired eyes. Try slicing one and letting it chill for a few hours. Lay down and place cucumber slices over your eyes. After 5-10 minutes you can remove them and revel in feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

A few sweet slices of watermelon will also revitalize you. The vitamin A content is moisturizing and the collagen content may help repair sun damage. The juice of the watermelon may be beneficial in reducing muscle soreness. Rich in lycopene, watermelon provides anti-inflammatory benefits as well. There is a high natural sugar content in watermelon, so enjoy in moderation.

If you are able to purchase your watermelon and cucumbers at a local farm market, you will enjoy superior summer flavor. Look for cucumbers that are glossy, firm, with no mushiness. Watermelons should feel very heavy and have uniform color. Store cucumbers unwashed in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Wash well before serving. Watermelons should be scrubbed before storing in the refrigerator.

Perfect for picnics, cucumbers and watermelon pack and serve easily. Back at home, cucumbers add crunch to all kinds of salads, sandwiches, wraps, summer rolls and marry well with virtually any herb. Watermelon can be converted into salsa, juice, smoothies, granita and even made into a colorful fruit pizza. Cut a thick round from a good-sized watermelon. Lay it on a round platter or plate. Spread a thin layer of cream or goat cheese on top. Then working in sections, top with blueberries, kiwi, raspberries and strawberries. Stand back and admire, then slice into wedges and serve.

Best of all, cucumbers and watermelon are excellent companions. Prepare this refreshing salad and you will be happy and hydrated.

Savor the brazen days of July as you prepare a delicious life!

Brazen Summer Salad

Serves 4-6

4 cups watermelon cubes or balls

2-3 cucumbers, well washed and sliced (remove peel if you must, but there are lots of nutrients in them)

2 ½ tablespoons thinly sliced mint leaves

1 ½ tablespoon thinly sliced basil leaves

1 ½ tablespoons thinly sliced Italian parsley leaves

½ cup crumbled feta cheese

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice (yes, lemon is OK; lime tastes really great though)

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Place the watermelon, cucumber and herbs in a large bowl. In a small glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, shake together the olive oil and juice. Drizzle olive oil mixture over the cucumber watermelon mixture. Add the feta cheese and toss gently until all is well coated. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. Taste and adjust with more salt and pepper if necessary.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook,” writes about preparing a delicious life and presents healthy food workshops throughout New England. She is a professional cook, organic gardener and a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teachers College.