How to Turn Tiny Melons into a Party Hit

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With Independence Day right around the corner, it's time to start thinking about your contribution to the inevitable holiday picnic slash barbecue. A Jell-O mold? The classic Cool Whip flag cake with strawberry stripes and a blueberry field?

With seedless personal watermelons overflowing in supermarket produce bins lately, we decided to take advantage of the trend and carve out a watermelon fruit basket in miniature. [Note: Like most home cooks, The Virgin has had absolutely no knife skills instruction up to this point.]

DeStructions: The first step is to pick out a ripe melon with a nice flat yellow spot so that it won't roll away.

Use a ruler to measure about 2 1/2 inches up from your work surface (more if your melons are bigger then the Virgin's) and mark that spot on the melon with a washable or dry-erase marker. Rotate the melon, making a dot at 2 1/2 inches up every few inches around the width of the melon. Connect the dots to form a solid line around the melon. The line marks where you'll carve the basket.

Read on to find out if watermelon carving is as easy as getting a jack o' lantern ready for Halloween -- or a recipe for an instant Emergency Room visit -- after the jump.  

Next, use the ruler to find the direct center of the melon and mark a dotted line. Center a piece of 1" masking tape on that line. This will be the handle of the basket (Tip: Don't skimp on size here, because carving will prove precarious if your handle is too small. More than a

handful may be a waste when it comes to melons, but you gotta have something to grip onto.)

Use a very sharp knife to slice down one side of the masking tape until you hit about 1 inch up from your horizontal marker line. Then, take the knife and slide it parallel to the marker line until it meets up with your first cut. If you've done everything right, you should be able to pull a large wedge of melon out. If you've got the knife skills of a Virgin, you might need to wiggle it back and forth until the "meat" of your melon comes out clean.

Repeat on the other side of the handle. This should result in a basket-shaped melon! Put the melon wedges aside for later in case you want to cut the melon up and add it to the fruit salad that goes inside the melon.

Next, you'll need to carve out the handle. Carefully cut the melon from the underside of the handle, making sure to leave about a 1-inch thick handle of rind, white and a little pink.

You can remove the masking tape and leave the handle as-is, or of you're feeling a little crafty, use an X-acto blade to slice the thin rind of the handle open in spot to form designs or words (our spells "Chow Bella," natch).

Scoop out the bulk of the melon from the basket's bowl, leaving a little pink for color. The final step is to take a paring knife or X-acto and cut the serrations along the edge of the basket, using marker dots placed at 1/2 inch intervals around the lip of the bowl as a guide. Remember, the serrations don't have to be perfect -- most melons found in nature are a little lopsided.   

The Result: A cute-ass, tiny little watermelon basket ready to fill with fruit and serve. Though I bought two melons to play with, I didn't screw the first one up enough to need the second. That definitely makes this one a success in the Virgin's book.

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