A week ago, I tasted my first sweet watermelon of the season. Every year I tell myself that I'll use more watermelon as an ingredient, but I fall short. I have a curried watermelon recipe that I teach on occasion -- it's my dumbed-down version of a recipe I learned from an old friend. Most people react with a raised an eyebrow and a few skeptical remarks about curry and melon. If they lived in India, it would be an everyday combo.
Adding fruit to a meal is high on the average dietician's list of how-to-eat-better suggestions, and non-dessert melon recipes are a great way to perk up a meal. The nice thing about something huge like a watermelon is that you only need a small quantity of easy-to-get condiments to turn it into a tasty salad. I don't have a good reason not to use watermelon more often, so this is the year I'm actually making good on the promise to myself. In fact, I'm on a melon binge.
I made a watermelon appetizer last week. I placed two-inch cubes of seedless watermelon on small plates. Then, I took the melon scraps (making cubes creates a lot of scraps) and put them in a small pot with some red wine vinegar and a pinch of salt. After simmering for half an hour, I ran the mush through a food mill to remove the pulp and seeds. I got a lot of liquid, because there is in fact a huge amount water in a watermelon. I returned the liquid to the stove and boiled until I had sweet and tangy watermelon syrup. Technically this flavor-dense sweet-tart syrup is a gastrique, but we'll call it syrup . . . I drizzled a little on each cube and garnished with a mint leaf and some black salt. This syrup is also great on ice cream.
Other simple options to turn your diced watermelon into a tossed salad:
- Balsamic vinegar (or raspberry vinegar)
- Kekap manis - a sweet soy sauce that's available in Asian markets
- Sweet chili sauce
- Chili, lime, and a pinch of salt
- Fresh grated ginger, red pepper flakes, and a splash of orange juice
Still, watermelon is most often dessert. Topped with shredded coconut, watermelon gains texture and a gentle co-flavor that really works. vanilla- or coconut-flavored yogurt are tasty options. Then there's always alcohol. A little hooch goes a long way and adds flavor and a bit of a kick (try port, pomegranate liquor, Grand Marnier, or flavored or plain vodka).
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Strawberries, bananas, and watermelon are also a nice combo. Melon tossed with marmalade tastes just special enough to impress your guests or family with your attention to detail and it takes less than a minute to prepare. (Before you slice and dice, note that melons grow on the ground. Your knife will transport whatever is on the outside to the inside, so thoroughly wash all melons with cool water before cutting.)
Of course, watermelon is just fine on its own. t's animalistic to bite chunks out of a big handheld wedge. It's summer vacation and we're all kids when we drip juice and spit seeds.
Andy Broder is the chef/owner of AndyFood, A Culinary Studio.