Try Watermelon Chilled, Grilled or Pureed
One of the most enduring summer events is the cookout. And one of the most popular seasonal offerings at these al fresco dinners is ice cold watermelon. Served plain or with salt (this is more common in the South than other parts of the country), the luscious, juicy pulp is the perfect sweet ending to an outdoor barbeque and it’s good for you too. Containing a number of nutrients like vitamin C and antioxidants, the fruit is also the ideal non-fattening dessert; one cup of watermelon contains 46 calories.
But for those of you who are bored with the simplicity of a slice of chilled melon, there are other things you can do with the fruit to jazz it up and excite your taste buds.
Some people like making a seasonal fruit salad with cubes of watermelon and fresh berries but a less traditional alternative to that is a salad that mixes sweet and savory flavors together. Consider, for example, the combination of two distinctly different sweet flavors—watermelon and onions—with the bold addition of fresh basil leaves, feta cheese and red wine vinegar.
Recipe for 4
- 6 cups watermelon cubes (seeds removed)
- 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1 minced red onion (or Vidalia onion)
- 3 tablespoons chopped basil
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper
Cut the watermelon into slices removing the rind and cut the flesh into bite size pieces, removing the seeds. When you have six cups of watermelon, place them in a large bowl and add the crumbled feta and the minced onion. In a large bowl, add the red wine vinegar and the chopped basil and whisk it together slowly adding the olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside. Arrange four servings of the watermelon salad in bowls and top with the basil vinaigrette and serve.
While the classic gazpacho recipe includes tomatoes, cucumber, jalapeno and bell peppers, there have been many variations on this recipe thanks to adventurous cooks who have come up with such innovations as cherry gazpacho with basil or green gazpacho with shrimp. One of my favorites is watermelon gazpacho which keeps the red bell pepper and cucumber from the original recipe but adds minced shallots, fresh parsley and basil and a touch of red wine vinegar for a unique taste sensation.
Recipe for 6
- 8 cups of diced seedless watermelon
- 1 cucumber (peeled, seeded and chopped)
- 3 tablespoons minced shallots
- 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Assemble all of the chopped and diced ingredients into a large bowl, add the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and toss. Puree the gazpacho ingredients in batches, transferring all of the soup to a large bowl. Place the gazpacho in the refrigerator until it is chilled. Serve in bowls and place a sprig of fresh mint in each serving.
Here is a summer salsa with a Caribbean twist that is ideal for grilled fish or chicken. I marinated a swordfish steak in coconut milk for hours, grilled it and topped it with a salsa mixture of melon, mango, minced red onion, fresh cilantro, jalapeno peppers, lime juice and honey. If your palette demands more fire, you can always spike it with additional jalapeno peppers or Tabasco.
- 3 cups watermelon, cut into small cubes (seeds removed)
- 1 cup diced mango
- 1/4 cup chopped onion (Vidalia or red onion)
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 2 tablespoons diced jalapeño peppers (optional)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
Add all of the chopped and diced ingredients in a large bowl and toss, adding a few pinches of sea salt. Chill the mixture in the refrigeration until ready to serve. Serve the salsa on the side with your favorite grilled entry.
Not all fruits and vegetables fare well when it comes to grilling and watermelon seems the least likely to succeed with this method. But you’d be surprised. Try marinating some thick slices of watermelon in fresh-squeezed lemon juice, then putting them on a hot grill and basting them with ginger honey. The sweet fruit is infused with a smoky tartness that becomes a tangy and unexpectedly exotic treat.
Recipe for 2
- 4 slices of seedless watermelon
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- Ginger honey for basting
Place the freshly cut watermelon slices in a shallow bowl with the fresh lemon juice and let it marinate for an hour.
Place the watermelon on the grill over high heat and roast it approximately 2-3 minutes on each side, basting it with ginger honey. Take the watermelon off the grill while it is still firm or it will get soft and mushy. Serve hot off the grill or at room temperature.
A popular Cuban cocktail, the classic mojito transforms fresh mint leaves, white rum, club soda, sugar and lime wedges into a light, refreshing summer cooler. Here’s a slight but colorful twist on that recipe which adds watermelon, omits the club soda and replaces the sugar with agave syrup.
Recipe for 2
- 4 cups watermelon, cut in cubes (seeds removed)
- 4 ounces white rum
- 10 fresh mint leaves, crushed with mortar and pestle
- 3 tablespoons agave nectar
- 1/4 fresh lime juice
Puree the watermelon in a food processor. Transfer it to a large bowl, stir in the rum, crushed mint, agave nectar and lime juice. Mix well and pour into a pitcher for serving. Fill a tall glass with ice, pour the mojito mix into it and top with a sprig of fresh mint.