Archive for: watermelon
On a hot summer day, few things are more refreshing than a slice of fresh watermelon. The only thing more refreshing than the melon itself is a generous serving of Watermelon Granita. Granita is a semi-frozen dessert made by freezing a mixture of water, sugar and flavoring (usually fruit puree or fruit juice) and stirring as it freezes to created a crystalline, slightly chunky mixture. The result is somewhere between smoothie and shaved ice, and it is a terrific way to turn fresh fruit into a summer dessert.
This Watermelon Granita starts with fresh watermelon, and plenty of it. The melon is pureed with a little bit of lime juice, some sugar and a pinch of salt. Once everything comes together into a smooth puree – and this can be done easily in a food processor or a blender - the mixture goes into a flat dish dish and into the freezer. I stir my granitas every 30 minutes as they freeze, to spread out the ice crystals as they form. This makes for a little chunkier granita that is a little easier to scrape and serve. You can also simply stir them once or twice and allow them to freeze solid, then use a sharp spoon to scrape the granita into crystals when you’re ready to serve it. This method takes a slightly longer freezing time. It will depend on your freezer and how deep your dish is, but it typically takes about two or three hours or so to freeze the granita.
You’re going to get the best results from this recipe if you start with a really good melon, of course, but turning an average melon into granita is a fabulous way to improve it. The hint of lime juice is just enough contrast with the melon flavor that the granita will taste even more watermelon-y than fresh melon! Serve this as dessert, a refreshing finish to a meal on a hot day. You can also top it with a shot of rum or splash of champagne to turn it into a summery cocktail.
The first time that I had a slice of watermelon with salt on it, I was skeptical. At the time, an acquaintance of mine insisted that it would make the watermelon sweeter, better. I gave it a try and I was an instant convert to salting my melon. I’ll eat watermelon (and other melons) without that pinch of salt, of course, but my friend was right: watermelon is better with salt.
Salt makes watermelon taste sweeter by creating a salty sweet contrast that allows the sweetness of the melon to stand out. Watermelon often has a subtle sweetness to it because so much of it is water, unlike a strawberry or other fruit where the flavor seems to be very concentrated and intense, so giving the sweetness a bit of salt to stand up against makes it seem much bolder. Salt also makes you salivate, which will make the watermelon seem even juicier than it is on its own. The trick to success is to only add a small pinch of salt and to evenly scatter it over the whole piece of melon. If you add too much salt, you’ll drown out the melon’s sweetness and you’ll have to start over with a fresh piece.
So, what kind of salt should you use? You can use any kind of salt, including table salt, but I prefer to use a coarser sea salt or kosher salt. It is easy to over salt the melon with table salt, and you get a greater salty-sweet contrast with the coarser salt while using less salt overall. I typically use Maldon salt or something like the pink Himalayan salt pictured above. You can also pair watermelon with feta cheese for a similar salty-sweet effect and a delicious side dish or snack on a hot summer day.
Agua fresca is a fresh fruit-based drink that is very popular in Mexico. They’re typically made by mashing or pureeing fruit such as strawberries or melon and then thinning the mixture out with juice or water until it has a light, drinkable consistency and is easy to sip through a straw. They’re lightly sweetened, both to highlight the sweetness of the fruit to ensure that the drink is a nice contrast for the spicy, savory food that it is usually served with. I like them because they’re very refreshing and because there is a lot of variety, from strawberries to hibiscus to tamarind.
This watermelon agua fresca is my spin on one of my favorite types of agua fresca. Watermelon seems even more refreshing to me than many other fruits, simply because it contains so much water to begin with. For this drink, I blend watermelon and a few strawberries with just enough water to puree them easily, then pour the mixture into a tall serving glass where I’ve muddled a little bit of sugar and mint. The mint is not traditional for this type of drink, but it works beautifully with the berries and the watermelon, making the drink seem even more refreshing. I chill the fruits before making this drink and serve it straight after I’ve prepared it. If you want it colder, chill the mixture for an hour or so before serving. Don’t add ice to the blender – or you’ll have to call your drink a smoothie!
If you strawberries and watermelon are sweet enough, you will probably only want to add a little bit of sugar to this drink, as I did. If they’re not quite as sweet as you’d like, add an extra tablespoon or two of sugar when blending the fruits together. And if you’re looking for a grownup finish to this drink, cut back on the water to make the puree a little bit thicker and spike your finished product with a splash of rum.
I usually use a big, sharp chefs knife to cut juicy slices of watermelon when it comes into season. They tend to be my sharpest knives and, while occasionally it does take a moment to get purchase on the slick melon rind, they do a good job of slicing in the end. I certainly didn’t need to add a knife specifically for cutting watermelon to my collection – but one look at Kuhn Rikon’s new Watermelon Knife and I simply couldn’t resist.
This watermelon-colored knife has a green handle and a red nonstick silicone-wrapped carbon steel serrated blade with seed-shaped holes running down the side – giving it a whimsical look at matches a watermelon. The blade is very sharp and its small serrations easily cut through both the rind of the melon and the flesh. Another positive thing about this knife is that the blade is 11-inches long, which means that it can actually cut all the way across full-sized melons, where shorter knives often struggle. The knife works beautifully and comes with a matching watermelon-colored blade protector to keep those serrations sharp when the knife is not in use – and it also make it easy to transport the knife to picnics safely. I’ll be honest: I bought the knife because I loved its look (and still do!), but it works very well and I’ll definitely get a lot of use out of it this summer.
Watermelons are a great summertime treat and are usually in season from June through September. The season can be a bit longer on either side of that spectrum depending on weather and growing conditions. I happened to have some excellent watermelon just this morning – the first of the year for me – and wanted to take a moment to share a couple of reminders about the wonderfully sweet and refreshing fruit (technically considered to be vegetables by the USDA because they are in the squash family, but always a fruit in my mind).
Watermelons are about 90% water and, as a result, are very low in calories in spite of their pleasant, natural sweetness. They are very high in the antioxidant lycopene, and are a reasonably good source of vitamins B6, C and potassium. Some studies have found that the amount of lycopene in a watermelon increases as it ripens off the vine when the fruit is stored at room temperature, making the fruit more nutritious. Fortunately, this was only shown for uncut watermelon; already cut watermelon did not show the same result, so if your idea of summer refreshment is a cold slice of melon, you have little to worry about it. Watermelon will lose a bit of flavor over time in the fridge, so be sure to eat it within a few days of slicing. I do not recommend leaving cut watermelon at room temperature for too long (bad things can happen).
I like my watermelon plain, or with a little bit of salt and lime juice sprinkled on top. Carrying the salty theme a bit further, watermelon goes wonderfully with feta cheese and works quite well with salty ham or pancetta as a summer snack. As more of a meal idea, watermelon gazpacho can be a lovely addition to a menu. Feel free to note your favorite serving suggestions in the comments. I could always use a few new ideas when it comes to serving up watermelon!