Nothing says summer like vibrant, refreshing watermelon: Outrageously colorful, yielding and sweet at the center and crisper and mild towards the rind, and packed with cooling, hydrating juice.
It’s hard to beat wedges of chilled melon fresh from the fridge, but it’s generous size and seasonal abundance are compelling reasons to get creative with it. Experimenting with bold flavor combinations and an expanded roster of techniques as well as recipes can transform your summer eating.
Here are the basics on choosing and using watermelon, followed by a selection of creative recipes to expand your summer repertoire.
- Choose melons with deeply colored, unblemished skin. It’s fine if one side is paler than the rest; this indicates the part of the melon that rested on the ground while it was ripening on the vine.
- A fresh, lightly sweet aroma is a sign of ripe melon. When tapped, it should sound taut and hollow if ripe.
- Seedless varieties are popular in today’s market, but seeds are so easy to remove that you should let ripeness be your guide when selecting a melon.
- If you purchase a piece of a cut melon, look for firm, solid flesh with deep color and no cracks.
- Before storing or cutting a whole one, rinse the exterior well under cold running water.
- A whole melon will keep at room temperature 7 to 10 days; it’s best eaten as soon as possible after cut, but can be refrigerated for 2 to 3 days.
- Watermelons flavor goes particularly well with lime, mint, basil, red onion, fresh cheeses, chiles, strawberries and neutral spirits such as vodka and light rum.
- Use it in just about any recipe you would cantaloupe or honeydew. Substitute it for other recipe with high-water vegetables like cucumber or tomatoes.
Melon consists of an awesome 90 percent water, so it’s no surprise that it makes an ideal base for drinks. Refreshing Watermelon Agua Fresca is light and delicious and packs pure summer flavor. Incredibly popular, gorgeously hued Watermelon Lemonade is terrific for a crowd; you can even make it do service through cocktail hour by adding a shot of vodka to each glass. And you can enjoy two of summer’s favorite fruits in these Strawberry Watermelon Coolers, packed with flavor and lightened by lots of ice and sparkling water.
Sides and Salads
Mix up your grilling routine with Grilled Watermelon with Olive Oil and Sea Salt; heat caramelizes the outside of the melon, resulting in a particularly complex flavor heightened by a hit of coarse salt. It makes a surprising side dish for spicy meats, as do Watermelon and Strawberry Salad with Chile Vinaigrette and Watermelon and Arugula Salad, both which are filled with fabulous seasonal flavors. Either salad makes an ideal dish for picnics or potlucks.
Melon shares the stage with a favorite summer catch, halibut, in Halibut with Watermelon Salsa, a brilliant recipe that uses watermelon both as a marinade and as a topping. Seafood is also the star in Shrimp, melon and Goat Cheese Salad, an easy choice for cookouts. (This recipe also works wonderfully with boneless skinless chicken breast.) As well as being healthful, and awesomely colorful Black Bean, Corn and Watermelon Salsa will turn any simple grilled item from tofu to burgers to steaks into a celebration of taste.
Snacks and Desserts
The melon is the key to a bevy of satisfying, almost effortless summer treats. The Watermelon Granita is one of the easiest, iciest refreshers around. It is perfect for an intermezzo between courses or as a light dessert. The Grape and Melon Freezer Pops are a fabulous alternative to commercial popsicles and low in added sweetener.
…Don’t Forget the Rind!
Want the satisfaction of using all your melon? Try the rind in this mildly flavored Strawberry-Watermelon Water with Basil, a terrific way to boost your water intake. Make a version of a southern favorite with the recipe for Pickled Watermelon Rind with Radishes.