The camaraderie at training camps, group rides, and masters swim workouts inspires me to go all out. Other times, an athlete’s life on the road gets lonely. The 2009 Nevis ITU Triathlon was one of those times.
In my cell-like motel room, I flipped on the black and white TV. But watching reruns with fuzzy reception didn’t cut it, so I went for a walk on the beach, hoping that the blue of the Caribbean Sea would distract me from the fact that the airline lost my bike. I crept past an ox and slunk through some shrubs that, I soon found out, marked the beginning of the Four Season’s private beach.
At the resort’s poolside restaurant, I nibbled an arugula and watermelon salad and sipped fresh squeezed tropical juice. After lunch I read magazines by the pool, then talked my way into the gym and spa locker room. Well-fed and relaxed, I left the Four Seasons a few hours later through the front entrance, and walked the 200 meters back to my dingy motel room to find my bike waiting for me. I sunk into a deep sleep. Then I got up and won the race.
Since that Nevis race, I’ve recreated that Four Seasons salad in my own kitchen countless times. At first I tried to reproduce the precisely cut watermelon cubes and beautifully arranged arugula leaves. Over the years the salad has morphed from a composed dish for one person to a rustic salad that I serve at barbecues alongside grilled fish or turkey burgers. One summer I added herbs to the greens. Last year, I ditched the peppery arugula altogether in favor of more sweet basil.
This salad doesn’t hold up for long, since the balsamic vinegar tints the cheese and herbs brown if its sits. But it’s a snap to prepare. Right after putting the meat or fish on the grill I dump the ingredients into a bowl. Then I dig my hands in for a quick toss. —Bec
Watermelon and Buffalo Mozzarella Salad with Basil and Mint
Serves: 6 as a side dish
Time: 20 minutes
6 mounded cups of ½-inch watermelon cubes
1 pint (about 2 cups) cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 balls buffalo mozzarella, cut into ½-inch cubes
20 large basil leaves
15 large mint leaves
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 or 5 grinds black pepper
Place the chopped watermelon, tomatoes, and buffalo mozzarella in a large serving bowl. Tear the basil and mint leaves into bite-size pieces (If you are using twice as many small leaves instead, keep the whole) and add them to the bowl. Drizzle on the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Add the sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss a few times with your hands. Eat immediately.