A Slice of Summer

For years I thumped on watermelons trying to figure out which one was ripe but not really knowing what kind of thump was a good one. Buying a watermelon was always like a Christmas gift. I was pretty sure I was going to like it, but not totally sure until I opened it. 

Now that I'm living in watermelon country, I've been out talking to farmers and have discovered they believe thumping is hooey. I'll pass along a little wisdom from the experts to help you choose a good one.
First, find a melon that's dull instead of shiny. Then look for a creamy patch-it's called a field spot. That's the place where the watermelon rested on the ground. The deeper the color, the longer the fully-grown melon was on the vine getting sweet. Yellow is better than white, but white is better than no patch at all This way you will be sure to get one that's at least three napkins juicy.

Just to settle the argument between whether to thump or look for the field spot, I spent the past couple weeks sampling melons from nearby farms. Sure enough, those with the creamy patch out-shined those without.
Remember, melons will continue to ripen and soften a little at room temperature, but not much.  And once you cut into it, wrap tightly and refrigerate and use within a few days.

Lately I've been substituting watermelon wherever I would use a tomato. Ripe, in-season ingredients are the key to this refreshing main-course salad, so use the best tomatoes and watermelon you can find. Here are a few suggestions.

Watermelon Gazpacho Yields 6 servings You will love this spicy, cool soup on sweltering summer afternoons-the perfect combination of cucumber, bell peppers and sweet sun-ripened watermelon.

4 cups Finely diced seedless watermelon
2 lbs Vine ripe tomatoes
1 Clove garlic, minced
1 Large cucumber, peeled, seeded
and finely diced
1 Red bell pepper, finely diced
? cup Fresh basil, chopped
3 Tbsps Red-wine vinegar
2 Tbsps Sweet onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsps Extra-virgin olive oil
æ tsp Kosher salt

Combine watermelon, tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, basil, parsley, vinegar, onion, oil and salt in a large bowl. PurÈe 3 cups of the mixture in a blender to the desired smoothness.

Transfer to another large bowl. PurÈe another 3 cups and add to the bowl. Stir in the remaining diced mixture. Serve chilled.

Watermelon Fruit Salad
3 cups Peeled, fresh peaches, coarsely chopped
æ cup Lemon-Poppy Seed Dressing
4 cups Seedless watermelon, cubed
4 cups Cantaloupe, cubed
4 cups Honeydew melon, cubed
2 cups Strawberries, blueberries or raspberries
2 cups Seedless grapes, cut in half
Garnish with mint leaves and basil leaves

Place cantaloupe and peaches in a bowl and stir in º cup of the dressing. Layer watermelon, peach mixture, honeydew, berries, and grapes in a glass trifle dish or glass bowl. Cover and chill about 8 hours. Drizzle remaining Ω cup dressing over the fruit just before serving.  Garnish with fresh mint and basil leaves.

Watermelons range in weight from fifteen to thirty-five pounds, depending on the variety. Three pounds will produce about six cups of chopped fruit. Just remember to discard the seeds before using.

Did you know watermelon is a valuable source of vitamin C and beta-carotene? And they are heart healthy-high in potassium which helps regulate heart functions and normalize blood pressure. Also, they're a good source of fiber. So enjoy them now while they're plentiful and delicious!

Watermelon Bellini Yelds 8 servings
3 cups Frozen seedless watermelon
1 Lime
1 cup Club soda, chilled
2 Tbsps Sugar
pinch of Salt
3 Tbsps Coarse sugar
Garnish with watermelon wedges

Cut the lime in half. Cut one half into wedges and rub on rims of 8 (6 oz) cocktail glasses. Dip rims in coarse sugar to coat.  Process frozen watermelon, 1 cup chilled sparkling club soda, sugar, salt, and juice from remaining lime half in a blender, until smooth. Pour mixture into prepared glasses and top off with additional club soda. Garnish and serve.

SautÈed Chicken and Watermelon Salad Yields 4-6 servings A delicious mix of sweet and savory, this salad will be a permanent addition to your summer menu.

For SautÈed Chicken:
4 Boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 cup Buttermilk
º cup All-purpose flour
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
oil for sautÈeing

Salad Dressing:
º cup Balsamic vinegar
æ cup Extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsps Honey
1 Tbsp Honey mustard
1 Clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper

Whisk ingredients together until emulsified.

Salad Ingredients:
Ω Watermelon, seeded and cut into cubes
4 cups Mixed greens
8 ozs. Goat cheese
Ω cup Pecans, toasted and chopped
1 Tbsp Mint, chopped
Vidalia Onion, sliced

Cover the bottom of a large skillet with oil and heat over medium-high heat.
In a shallow dish, season chicken with salt and pepper and combine seasoned chicken with buttermilk.
In a separate bowl, stir together flour, and panko crumbs. Dredge buttermilk-soaked chicken in dry mixture and sautÈ in oil until cooked through.

Toss ingredients together to make a salad and serve with sautÈed chicken on top with crumbled goat cheese.

Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.