Sunday, August 7, 2011

Watermelon Berry Salad + Bonus Melon Tips

Texas seems to be on hospitality strike. I thought it was so lush and lovely when I visited in May, but now it is August, and we have been here about a month and have yet to see the temperatures stay below 100 in 36 days and we are still waiting for just an ounce of heavenly rain. Indeed, the heat is on. At least the melons are too. It helps me keep my cool, just a little bit. Cucumbers and melons are known for their cooling, soothing taste and sensation to the tongue. Even the Israelites pined from them when they tired of heavenly coriander-spiced manna. (Saying huh? Yep, it was spiced manna. See vs. 7 from Numbers 11.)
So we have melon here. And when we tire of eating wedges of it, which doesn't really happen, but just for variety's sake, I have been doing a few other things with it too. Salad like this one and an agua fresca, but I'll get to that one in a minute. First, a word about cutting.
If you need a lot of melon cubed for a salad or blender drink this is the fastest way I know how to cut it. I picked this one up while I worked in catering in college. I loved spying on the food prep folks, who always knew the fastest way to work any produce into nice pieces for serving platters, salads and cooking.

First, cut in half, scoop out the fleshy guts in the middle. 
Then begin cutting off all of the rind.


And slice the other direction. You can always lay the slices on their sides before this step and cut again if you want to end with smaller chunks. 

But this is the best way to get easy, uniform chunks of any melon. I use this same technique with watermelons- I just only snapped a picture of the cantaloupe. Now that you have your melon cut, here is the salad.
I've seen many watermelon salads with feta and lime, but I was cooking Italian the night I created this and had some ricotta salata left over from this and headed that direction. So here is a melon composition with a more Mediterranean feel. 

Watermelon Berry Salad
1 lb. cubed or balled watermelon
1 T. fresh mint, chopped or julienne 
1/4 cup cubed or torn ricotta salata
1 T. Balsamic vinegar or to taste
1 cup berries, either blackberries, mulberries or similar (wineberries, if you are Tiffany Ruekert)
sea salt and pepper

Place melon, berries, and mint in a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and vinegar. GENTLY fold to distribute the seasonings. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

Now for the agua fresca. Agua Fresca is a Latin thing and the best thing to do with overripe  and/or excessive amounts of melon. Feel free to play around with other fruits and cucumber too (peel it for this one)- it is delicious and refreshing. If you want to do it perfectly go ahead and strain your puree, but if you just don't care about the solids, skip that step. I often do. And play around with proportions- you may like more or less water or just sub for ice if you still don't care about the solids and want things even colder since it is a heat index of 167 degrees outside and the kids still want to be out there on their swings... just saying.

Melon Agua Fresca
6 to 8 pounds seedless watermelon, cut into 2-inch pieces 
2 cups cold water
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice (or any other citrus you favor)
1 tablespoon sugar or honey (only if your fruit is a bit sour)
Ice cubes 
Sea salt (optional)
Lime slices and mint leaves for garnish (optional)

Puree the melon, water, citrus and sweetener and a pinch of sea salt if you are using it. Work in batches if you need to. Strain the solids, and serve over ice.


1 comment:

  1. my mom learned in culinary school to cut the very ends off melons to be able to stand them up flat and straight and then cut down the sides of the whole thing to get the rind off and then slice in half and scoop out insides and then chop as you show... :)


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