Watermelon & Goat Cheese Salad with a Verbena-Infused Vinaigrette

August 10, 2009
9 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Cook time 5 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

This is perfect mix of some of my favorite ingredients. I made it up along the way, but I knew that I definitely wanted to use watermelon, goat cheese and verbena. I wanted an interesting ingredient and to me summer involves verbena. Half of my family is from the south of France in Cannes and every summer at my grandparent's villa we would have verbena tisane fresh from the garden after dinner. We grow it here in Westchester and the tradition continues. I had never used it in a salad but it works really well and adds a great refreshing taste. Overall wonderful for a hot summer night. —loli

Test Kitchen Notes

Not everyone is lucky enough to have lemon verbena growing in the backyard the way loli does, but this recipe is worth seeking some out. The herbal, citrus-scented vinaigrette lightly coats the sweet chunks of watermelon, and goat cheese adds a savory tang. We especially love the toasty crunch of the pistachios. We find that grinding the verbena with just a few drops of oil breaks it down quickly, and then the rest of the oil is easy to incorporate. We used only 4 ounces of goat cheese, but our watermelon wasn't huge and had a particularly thick rind. - A&M —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 handful fresh Verbena Leaves
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 seedless watermelon
  • 1/2 pound fresh goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup unsalted pistachios
  • 2 tablespoons red vine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Maldon Sea Salt
  • 1 dash Fresh Pepper
  1. Roughly chop the verbena and place in a mortar and add the olive oil and the coarse salt. Grind for about 10 minutes and let it sit for about 1 hour at room temperature.
  2. Cut the watermelon into cube and place in a salad bowl in the refrigerator.
  3. Place the pistachios in a pan and on low heat toast them for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove the pistachios from the pan and chop them roughly. Set aside in a small bowl
  5. Crumble the goat cheese.
  6. Take the olive oil and verbena mix and put it through a small mixer. When completely mixed add the vinegar. Mix again.
  7. Take the watermelon out of the fridge, add the goat cheese, drizzle the vinaigrette, sprinkle the pistachios and finish with Maldon sea salt and pepper. Mix and serve!
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17 Reviews

Leslie July 28, 2022
I replaced the verbena with lemon zest and the goat cheese with feta, but it was still a HUGE hit. Great party dish, just don't dress it til the last minute.
epicharis July 18, 2019
I thought this was a very good salad, but my husband (a chef) insisted it be added to the "Husband-Approved" list, so it looks like this is going to go in the summer rotation. This is a great use for the lemon verbena hanging around patiently in your garden.
Renée R. July 29, 2018
I made this using basil and lemon zest. I served it with Anthony Bourdain's Macau-Style Pork Chop Sandwiches. Had to be one of the best combinations ever! Love this salad.
howcool June 27, 2018
"1/2 seedless watermelon" ➜ Since watermelons range in weight from a few ounces to hundreds of pounds each, this is hardly a specific & accurate measurement for inclusion in a recipe!
Katie M. August 18, 2017
How many leaves are a "handful"?
maryvelasquez August 3, 2014
All these years later, this salad is still a winner. With my own lemon verbena plant I can now make it properly in a snap.
Jane E. December 26, 2010
This was just sent to me and I grow mint and verbena and this is right up my street. Can't wait until watermelons are in season.

I am enjoying the NY Times cookbook very much--it was a holiday gift to myself!

Amanda H. December 28, 2010
I'm going to try to grow verbena again this summer. Last summer, it just looked forlorn and sad. So glad you're enjoying the book!
sygyzy July 21, 2010
Hi, we made your salad for our Bite Club last night. We mixed everything though so presentation was not as great but the flavors were spot on. Infused the olive oil with the zest of one lemon since I did not have verbena.
Bevi July 3, 2010
I assembled this for our pre-parade picnic, and it was fabulous! I took Amanda's suggestions and used lemon zest combined with basil leaves. The vinaigrette was refreshing and very sublime. I used the zest of one lemon, and a handful of basil. Not only was this a tasty variation on the usual watermelon on the 4th, it was a beautiful presentation.
nkarmali May 30, 2010
Is lemon balm the same as lemon verbena - I tried to look for a plant to grow and never found one , but did find lemon balm - its growing like a weed in my garden. . And how does one make a tisane form the lemon vebena? I had a tisane at Chez Panise in Berkeley, Ca several years ago. It had a variety of herbs - but it seemed the lemon verbena was the most fragrant
Kitchen B. July 2, 2010
No, lemon balm and lemon verbana are different even though they both have lemony scents. Lemon balm leaves are 'leaf' green, with broad leaves which are slightly downy! Lemon Verbana leaves are slightly lighter green and are long and narrow, with a pointy end. I have both.....but haven't used the verbana since I got it a few weeks ago!
maryvelasquez August 22, 2009
I made this last night using a mixture of herbs from my garden. I couldn't justify buying lemon verbena when I have so much overflow here. I muddled anise hyssop leaves, let them infuse the oil and then took them out. I left the basil and mint, which I ground finely, in the dressing. The pistachios were great--I toasted them in a cast iron skillet on the grill. Thanks!
Amanda H. August 27, 2009
this sounds great -- I think next year I have to grow both lemon verbena and anise hyssop on my deck.
Rhonda35 August 22, 2009
Is there anything that can be substituted for the lemon verbena leaves?
Amanda H. August 26, 2009
Yes -- we talked about this. We think you could substitute lemongrass or lemon zest. And we thought it would also be interesting with a combination of lemon zest and basil if you don't have access to verbena.
Leslie July 28, 2022
Yes! Zest of one lemon muddled in olive oil is delicious in this salad. I have yet to try verbena.