There are watermelon lovers who see the very concept of watermelon recipes as blasphemy. Their dogma holds that a ripe, crimson-hearted melon needs nothing but a knife to become their bridge to nirvana.
This collection of recipes from the Washington Post offers tasty arguments for a broader view. It includes an idea for turning watermelon into a sauce, useful for finishing grilled meat or vegetables, and an approach to intensifying watermelon’s flavor for salads.
Wildest of all, one chef describes how to transform watermelon into a deep-fried cornmeal-bacon-crusted appetizer.
12 servings (makes 1œ to 1½ cups)
This floral and stunning sauce, which is great on grilled and barbecued meats and vegetables, is the result of a happy mistake, says Patowmack Farm executive chef Tarver King. After he over-reduced a pan of tomato water to a near-molasses state, he experimented with other fruit and vegetable juices. Watermelon was his favorite.
His original recipe calls for glucose; we made a heavy simple syrup instead (see NOTE, below).
Make ahead: The molasses can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
Adapted from Tarver King, executive chef at Patowmack Farm in Lovettsville, Va.
4 small spring onions, all but about 2 inches of greens trimmed off
Pinch kosher salt
1 generous tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
5.3 ounces chopped seedless watermelon (no rind)
Scant 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) heavy simple syrup (see headnote and NOTE; may substitute cane syrup)
2 teaspoons crumbled saffron threads
Place the spring onions on a plate; salt them and let them sit for 10 minutes. Rinse well, then coarsely chop or slice the onions.
Heat the oil in a small saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and stir to coat; cook for about 10 minutes, until wilted. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
Combine the watermelon and heavy simple syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring and mashing, for 5 to 10 minutes or until the melon has liquefied. Turn off the heat.
Stir in the saffron and the onions; let sit for 30 minutes, then strain, returning the liquid to the same saucepan. Discard the solids. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes or until the liquid has reduced to a molasses-like consistency. Cool before serving or storing; the molasses will thicken further as it cools.
Note: To make the heavy simple syrup, combine 1 cup sugar and ¼ cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat; cool completely before using.
Nutrition | Per 2-tablespoon serving: 40 calories, no protein, 7 g carbohydrates, 1 g fat, no saturated fat, no cholesterol, 10 mg sodium, no dietary fiber, 7 g sugar
Compressed Watermelon Salad
Not so long ago, restaurant chefs were compressing watermelon at nearly every turn. Ever wonder why? The technique concentrates and intensifies the flavor and color.
They use a vacuum sealer or sous-vide machine, but you can get similar results with the method described here.
You’ll need one or two gallon-size zip-top bags.
Adapted from FabulousFoods.com.
For the watermelon and the salad
One 16-ounce block peeled, seedless watermelon
4 cups torn frisee
1 cup cubed whole-milk mozzarella
2 tablespoons raw, shredded coconut
For the dressing
¼ cup plain rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
For the watermelon and salad: Cut the watermelon into 2-inch squares that are ∑-inch thick. Sprinkle them lightly with salt on one side. Lay the squares on flat surfaces that can fit inside the zip-top bags. Seal, pressing out as much air as possible. Place something on top of the bags that will provide gentle, even pressure, such as a plate with a few 15-ounce cans or a few bags of frozen peas on top. Freeze for 2 hours.
When the watermelon is ready, it will look flatter and have a denser texture. Transfer to a serving bowl; add the frisee and toss gently.
For the dressing: Whisk together the vinegar, sugar, lemon zest and juice, and oil in a liquid measuring cup to form an emulsified dressing.
Pour half of the dressing over the watermelon and frisee; toss gently to coat. Scatter the mozzarella cubes and coconut on top.
Serve right away, and pass the remaining dressing at the table.
Nutrition | Per serving (using half the dressing): 210 calories, 9 g protein, 14 g carbohydrates, 14 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 290 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 11 g sugar
This refreshing drink gives you an excuse to use bitter melon: the green, pebbly, pickle-shaped fruit you find at Asian and Indian markets. It’s also a good way to use watermelon whose texture or age has made it a little less than ideal for eating out of hand.
Adapted from a recipe at Watermelon.org.
2 small bitter melons (about 5.3 ounces total; may substitute peeled seedless cucumber; see headnote)
3 cups coarsely chopped seedless watermelon
½ cup low-fat coconut milk
12 to 14 small ice cubes
Pinch kosher salt
Cut away some of the bumpy outer skin of the bitter melon, if desired. Cut the fruit open; scrape out the seeds. Coarsely chop to yield ½ packed cup.
Combine in a blender, in order from bottom to top, the watermelon, bitter melon, coconut milk, ice cubes (depending on how thick you’d like your shake) and salt; puree until smooth.
Divide between tall pint glasses; top with ginger ale. Serve right away.
Nutrition | Per serving: 140 calories, 2 g protein, 27 g carbohydrates, 5 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, no cholesterol, 100 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 23 g sugar
Looking to do something fun with the summer fruit and imbue it with even more seasonal flavor, chef Jerome Grant and his kitchen team came up with this crunchy-juicy starter.
When the pieces are cut open, the watermelon looks like sushi-grade tuna. The accompanying chimichurri balances the dish with spice and acid.
You’ll need a thermometer for monitoring the frying oil.
Make ahead: The chimichurri can be made and refrigerated a few days in advance. Taste for seasoning before serving.
From Jerome Grant, executive chef at Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe, National Museum of the American Indian.
For the chimichurri
1 medium jalapeño pepper (seeded or unseeded), cut into chunks
½ cup packed basil leaves
½ cup packed, coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
∑ cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
For the watermelon
3 cups vegetable oil, for frying
2 cups flour
3 large eggs
¼ cup regular or low-fat milk
2 cups stone-ground yellow cornmeal
½ cup cooked, finely chopped bacon
Twenty 2-inch cubes seed less watermelon (no rind)
For the chimichurri: Combine the jalapeño, basil, parsley, olive oil and vinegar in a blender or food processor; pulse to the desired consistency. Taste, and season with salt as needed. Transfer to a serving bowl or airtight container; refrigerate until ready to use (up to a few days).
For the watermelon: Heat the vegetable oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with several layers of paper towels.
Meanwhile, place the flour in a medium bowl and season it lightly with salt. Whisk together the eggs and milk in a separate medium bowl. Combine the cornmeal and bacon in a third bowl.
Working in batches, dip and coat the watermelon pieces in this order: the seasoned flour, the egg-milk wash and the cornmeal-bacon mixture. Each piece should be completely coated. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes or just until golden brown. Immediately transfer to the paper towels to drain; sprinkle lightly with salt right away.
Discard any used egg-milk mixture, bacon-cornmeal mixture and flour. Serve with chimichurri spooned on top.
Ingredients are too variable for a meaningful nutritional analysis.