I spent almost my entire life disliking watermelon. Oh, it’s okay, but nothing I ever craved. And, if it was offered, I would agree to accept only a thin slice as if that might put me over the top with of my caloric rationing. All that could be heard was the slurp, ahhh and spppt! I enjoyed the spppt of spitting the slippery black seeds much more than the slurp and ahh.
Only in the last several months, have I grown to enjoy watermelon. My first awakening was at a store, shopping back in July.
Handicapped by a congestive cold, I went into a fitful coughing attack in the reduced for clearance corner of the store. Desperately, I dug through my purse for the cough drops I had packed but had since eaten. Clutching my throat and mouth, intermittently wiping my teary eyes, I clamored towards the front door.
It must have been the small glisten of the brightly colored blue, green and pink candies tightly wrapped in their individual cellophane wrappers that caught my eye… I abruptly altered my path toward the register where the small basket of candy winked. Grabbing one of the candies, my fingers untwisted the ends. And like and oasis in a desert storm, the sweet flavor coated my throat like the most delicious honey.
Ohhh, so this less than familiar flavor was soon to be my favorite. I nonchalantly passed the register several more times, grabbing two or three candies in order to smoothly complete my shopping. For the road, I selected only the pink bobbles of solidified watermelon relief. Of all the flavors, the watermelon was my favorite.
Now I know watermelon candy tastes only remotely like the real deal. But it unplugged the thick rind I had developed against this tenderly endearing fruit.
Then at the restaurant where I worked, I found myself cutting watermelon almost daily for a nutty watermelon salad. I can’t remember now exactly how it was made but this flavor combination is fool-proof: strawberries, blueberries and watermelon tossed with the sharp crispness of water cress and a sweet lime vinaigrette nestled on a watermelon round and sprinkled with toasted nuts. It was popular, and when I took a taste I understood why.
Finally, this behemoth fruit found more than a space in my heart. After years of squeamishly tolerating it and a summer submersion, I find it poetic that I bring up the topic of watermelon now at its season end.
You can still find it at your farmers market and other venues where you might shop. Just because it’s at the end of its season doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy it.
But how do you now enjoy this classic refreshment for hot, steamy days of the summer now past?…and at the same time celebrate the arrival of fall next week? Here are several transitional recipes for the watermelon enthusiasts and unenthusiasts alike. Either way, as watermelon season winds down, try using it to connect both summer and fall flavors in all the elements on the plate.
- Sweet spicy fresh-shelled beans
- Watermelon salsa dipping sauce
- Watermelon marinated chicken kabobs with onion, red bell pepper and button mushrooms
First, make the marinade and salsa. This can be done the night before or several hours before serving. The salsa will keep overnight, and in fact develops its flavor by melding at least an hour or two. Because the ingredients are very similar in the marinade and the salsa, it is easiest to make them at the same time. Over lapping ingredients that will require prepping include watermelon, jalapeno pepper and garlic. Be sure to complete the salsa before contaminating your cutting board and knife with raw chicken.
Combine the following ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
2 cups watermelon, diced into ¼ inch cubes
1 jalapeno, minced
2 small garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons orange zest (amount from ½ a large orange)
3 scallions, minced
2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
Variations: For a ruby red summer salsa add ½ cup fresh diced cactus flowers (seeded). For spring, add diced strawberries. And for fall, add diced orange, yellow or green peppers.
Combine the following ingredients in a two-inch deep baking dish. Cover and refrigerate for at least two to three hours, stirring to make sure that all sides of the chicken are well marinated.
2 cups coarsely diced watermelon – squeeze the chunks with your hand saving the juice and flesh in the baking dish
1/8 cup while onion, coarsely chunked
1 finely diced jalapeno.
2 small garlic cloves – minced
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup white wine
¼ Triplesec or other clear alcohol
Orange juice from half an orange (use the zested portion from making the salsa)
2 teaspoons salt to taste before adding raw chicken – it should be a little salty)
Lastly, add 3 chicken breasts cut into 1½ inch cubes.
Soak 10 wooden skewers in warm water for 30 minutes. While the skewers are soaking make the bean and clean and cut the other ingredients for the kabobs.
Approximately 15 button mushrooms
One large onion into 1½ inch cubes
Seed and cube 1-2 red bell peppers into 1½ inch cubes
To build the kabob, skewer a mushroom first so that the rounded cap faces away from the next skewer item. I like this because it creates a pretty end-cap. To me, mushrooms and onions go together like peanut butter and jelly. I usually make sure that several layers of onion follow the mushroom. Using a full 1½ inch cube of onion usually won’t get done at the same time as the other ingredients. Then a piece of chicken followed by some pepper. Repeat this, or your preferred sequence until the skewer is filled without falling off. Try to end the sequence with a mushroom, again cap facing away from the other ingredients.
Brush all sides of the skewers with oil, or if you use bacon in the making of the fresh-shelled beans, bacon grease. Salt and pepper the skewers on all sides.
When beans are almost done, grill the kabobs approximately 15 minutes over a glowing fire. Be sure to rotate the skewers frequently to heat evenly and avoid overcooking one side. The chicken is done when it is firm to the touch and white in color throughout.
Sweet Spicy Fresh Shelled Beans
Between summer and fall, fresh-shelled beans are available and can make a fun project for kids. The time spent shelling these beans can be saved when cooking. Fresh beans don’t require soaking and take less time over the heat.
Begin with three strips of bacon, cut into one inch pieces. Fry in a medium saucepan. Use the grease to coat the kabobs before grilling. Retain only a tablespoon of grease in the pan. Throw any excess away. Over medium heat, add 1/2 cup onion and half a minced jalapeno to the remaining grease. Stir regularly until soft. Add 3 tablespoons of salsa, 4 cups fresh beans and about ½ cup vegetable or chicken broth. Cook over low heat with the lid on for approximate 20 minutes or until the beans are tender.
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