Heat’s on! It’s watermelon time.
Mini watermelons, about 4 pounds each, are called “personal melons” for a good reason. Devour them ice cold in one sitting, spitting seeds into the yard, juice dribbling down your arm. Nature’s sweet answer to summertime heat is just too good to share.
Look for melons that are firm and heavy with deep green skins. Put your ear on the rind, give the melon a slap, and if it sounds hollow, it’s ready to go home.
To prepare any watermelon (no matter the size), slice it in half and remove the row of seeds with a fork. Then, cut the melon into chunks and keep in a covered bowl in the refrigerator, ready to toss into a fruit medley, whir into a smoothie or freeze for sorbet.
This salad takes the savory road with a south-of-the-border vinaigrette that’s hot, tangy and sweet. Try any of the other possibilities with variations on an Asian, Mediterranean or Middle Eastern theme. Toss in cucumbers, onions, jicama, crunchy radishes or sweet bell peppers. Each makes a great addition for crunch and zip.
Make the salad about an hour or so ahead of time so that the flavors marry. While many other watermelon salads call for cheeses, I prefer to leave them out because they tend to tamp down the crisp textures and the bold, bright tastes. I like my watermelon straight.
Here are a few other ideas that shine.
Watermelon water: No need to buy pricey bottled water. Cut up a small watermelon, add to a large pitcher and cover with cold water. Refrigerate for about 3 hours or overnight. Serve garnished with chunks of watermelon and mint.
Watermelon sorbet: Purée chunks of watermelon in a food processor with a splash of lime juice and a little sugar to taste. Pour into a shallow pan and freeze until ice crystals form at the edges, stir and continue freezing until desired consistency is reached. Serve garnished with mint.
Watermelon Salad with Jalapeño-Lime Vinaigrette
Serves 6 to 8.
Note: Plan to make this salad a little ahead, cover and refrigerate, so that the flavors blend. From Beth Dooley.
• 1 tbsp. chopped seeded jalapeño
• 3 tbsp. lime juice
• 1 tsp. sugar, honey or agave, to taste
• 1/4 c. vegetable oil
• Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
• About 6 to 8 c. (1-in.) watermelon chunks, cut from about 3 to 4 lb.-watermelon
• 1 small green pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
• 1/2 c. chopped sweet onion
• 1/2 c. peeled, diced cucumber
• 1/4 c. chopped cilantro
• 2 to 3 tbsp. chopped fresh mint
In a small bowl, whisk together jalapeño, lime juice, sugar, vegetable oil and salt and pepper.
In a large bowl, combine watermelon, green pepper, onion, cucumber, cilantro, mint and salt and pepper to taste. Toss with just enough vinaigrette to lightly coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
Asian vinaigrette: Omit the jalapeño and add 1 to 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger root; substitute rice wine vinegar for the lime juice.
Mediterranean vinaigrette: Omit the jalapeño and substitute white balsamic vinegar for the lime juice and use extra-virgin olive oil instead of the vegetable oil. Omit the cilantro and add 2 tablespoons pitted, chopped green olives and 2 tablespoons basil; reduce the mint to 1 tablespoon.
Middle Eastern vinaigrette: Omit the jalapeño and substitute lemon juice for the lime juice and use extra-virgin olive oil instead of the vegetable oil. Add 1/4 teaspoon crushed cumin, 2 tablespoons pitted kalamata olives, 1 tablespoon basil and 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh marjoram, and reduce mint to 1 tablespoon.
Nutrition information per each of 8 servings:
Calories 120 Carbohydrates 14 g Protein 1 g Fat 7 g Saturated fat 1 g Cholesterol 0 mg Sodium 0 mg
Total sugars 11 g
Dietary fiber 1 g
Exchanges per serving: 1 fruit, 1 ½ fat.
Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.