resuming life, and a recipe: watermelon and arugula salad with basil vinaigrette

The past two weeks have been a blur, filled with hours and hours spent On Call. Fifteen days, 24 hours per day, which turns out to be 350 hours. Granted, my evenings – and three out of four weekend afternoons –  were spent at home, with Sam and the kids. Most nights I was not awakened by phone calls, only some nights.

I would love to say that being On Call doesn’t stress me out, but to say that would be telling a lie. While my work-life balance is always a struggle, during these stretches of On-Call time, the balance leans heavily in favor of work. It is my nature to take home my worries about patients, about giving bad news, about difficult work situations. I dream about my patients, my clinic (which gets neglected while I’m in the hospital)…or that I’m back in college and it’s exam day and, not only have I forgotten to attend class all semester, but I’m also not wearing pants or shoes.

watermelon and arugula salad with basil vinaigrette | the merry gourmet

For two weeks, I’ve neglected cooking regular meals. I baked a key lime pie last weekend, and it was a big disappointment. The pie didn’t set up the way I wanted, and the filling was too tart. I forgot to mail Father’s Day cards. My family has consumed entirely too much take-out food. I’m still paying for my daughter’s gymnastics lessons that I meant to cancel two weeks ago, and I’ve neglected to sign her up for the swim team like I promised her I would.

Despite all of my complaining, I know that I have nothing valid to complain about. I left the Cancer Hospital each of those 15 days feeling blessed. Exhausted, yes, but mostly I felt fortunate. My family is healthy and happy and whole – and for these things I am grateful.

So, it is time to get back on track. Back to writing regularly. Back to this blog and posting here in this space, my happy space. Back to cooking good meals for my family, back to baking up cakes and cookies simply for the therapy of baking. Back to the gym, even.

This sweet little salad is one of the few kitchen successes that I had during one of the past few Saturdays. It was inspired by a watermelon salad at our local pizza place, the restaurant that’s been feeding us quite well while I’ve been too busy to cook. The salad is a breeze to throw together, and it’s filled with contrasting tastes that make the salad interesting and addictive.

So, thank you for waiting patiently for me while I was away. I’m here. I’m well. And I missed you.

watermelon and arugula salad with basil vinaigrette | the merry gourmet


Yield: 6 servings.

Watermelon and Arugula Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Peppery arugula is a great contrast to the sweetness of watermelon and saltiness of the feta. Use a blender for the vinaigrette and your life is all that much easier.


Basil Vinaigrette:
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4-5 large fresh basil leaves
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

6 ounces baby arugula
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
3 cups cubed watermelon
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese


Make basil vinaigrette: Combine vinegar, mustard, basil leaves, and olive oil in blender and puree until well blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate, covered tightly, for up to one week.

Assemble salad: Toss arugula and cherry tomatoes with vinaigrette, reserving some vinaigrette for drizzling. Carefully toss in watermelon cubes and sprinkle with feta prior to serving. Drizzle with the extra vinaigrette if more dressing is needed.

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15 Responses to “when life gets in the way, and a recipe: apple and pear pie”

  1. martina — September 19, 2011 @ 12:35 pm

    you can do this 🙂 you are one of the strongest women i know and an inspiration! thinking of you and your family and sending healing thoughts your way 🙂

  2. Kiran @ — September 19, 2011 @ 12:47 pm

    So sorry to hear about your dad – but glad he is doing well now. Hugs 🙂

  3. amelia from z tasty life — September 19, 2011 @ 12:50 pm

    MJ: little daily things – like making a pie – are really the best way to go about big changes and happening like this one… I hope you find comfort in the small moments (and of course wish your dad a speedy recovery). BYW, from your FB page link I clicked on your mom’s blog and started reading a few of her posts: I can see where you get your writing skills and passion to share life, as it is happening, in the moment… you are a beautiful family!

  4. — September 19, 2011 @ 12:57 pm

    Pie crust does sense your fear and frustration. But yours looks lovely. I am sending you healing, peaceful througts for you and your mum and dad. And Amelia’s right – you and your mum ae both so talented. Hugs xox

  5. JulieD — September 19, 2011 @ 6:09 pm

    The pie looks wonderful, MJ. I hope your dad is all better and home soon!

  6. Winnie — September 19, 2011 @ 6:35 pm

    Sending love your way, my friend, and cannot wait to see you next week xoxo

  7. Paula — September 19, 2011 @ 8:04 pm

    Yes, you can do it and you did do it, wonderfully so and this does not just apply to the pie crust. I’m sorry that what was turning out to be such a good week ended with your Dad in ICU, but thankful that he appears to be on the mend and going to be getting more help at the re-hab centre. Your Mom will hopefully also be able to take advantage of this opportunity to get some rest herself. I can imagine the worry the kids felt when they saw their Grampa but the hugs around his neck must have brought them and him lots of comfort. Hoping that your Dad has a full recovery.
    Congratulations on the FL Times Union publishing, on the Gojee, and on Kitchen Generation’s feature.
    I’ve baked crisp using apples and pears and I can imagine how delicious your pie tastes.

  8. Rachel Winter — September 19, 2011 @ 8:11 pm

    Thinking of you and your family.

  9. Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen — September 19, 2011 @ 9:51 pm

    I’m so sorry about your dad’s fall. I’m glad to hear that his condition is improving and that he’s out of the ICU though. Thinking of you and your family. xo

  10. sweetsugarbelle — September 19, 2011 @ 10:57 pm

    MJ, I am so sorry you have been having a hard time lately. Im glad things are lookng bedder. Hoping your dad is well SOON!

  11. DessertForTwo — September 20, 2011 @ 1:18 am

    I’m so sorry to hear about your dad, but I’m so glad to hear he is recovering.

    LOVE your article 🙂 I agree-Southern food should not be haute cuisine. It should be made with love in your heart and flour smeared on your face.

    Lots of love to ya,

  12. LiztheChef — September 20, 2011 @ 11:27 am

    I know you can do this but I’m certainly sorry that you and your Mom have to go through this, not to mention your Dad and what he must be experiencing. Lean on your friends…

  13. chinmayie @ love food eat — September 20, 2011 @ 11:30 pm

    I am so sorry about your dad! Wishing him a fast recovery…

  14. Macaroni Mama — September 21, 2011 @ 4:28 pm

    Thanks to your friends, MJ, who clicked on my blog link.

  15. Jamie — September 27, 2011 @ 11:13 am

    Baking really centers us, helps us focus, concentrate and think things through. And baking makes those around us happy. Hoping this helped you and those around you get through this rough time. Sending hugs and hoping your dad heals soon and well. xo

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