Ode to the Watermelon
Special to the Sun
TRUCKEE/TAHOE and#8212; No other fruit speaks for the summer like the watermelon. When you first note the green orb in your local produce section you canand#8217;t help but smile, despite the high price, because you know summer is near. Then the day comes when they are piled high under the and#8220;buy one get one freeand#8221; sign, and you are truly secure in the knowledge that you can put away the crock pot and bust out the barbecue.
This time of year, itand#8217;s all about dining outdoors and the summer table spread is as traditional as, well, the watermelon. So why not pay homage to this seasonal staple, bypass the red and white checker motif, and get into the spirit of things with a giant watermelon table? I know. The idea really should be patented. But all this sunshine has gotten me in a generous mood, so here goesand#8230;
All you need are two plastic table cloths, one green, one red, and some dark navy blue or black paper plates. Working with your standard picnic table (though it will work on any table really) just put down the green tablecloth over the entire table, draping over the edges. Then fold or cut the red one to cover just the green table top, securing with double sided tape to keep the two in order. Next, you arrange the dark plates or and#8220;seedsand#8221; on top and voila! Giant watermelon table. For napkins, you can go all out and match the plates or go with white, aka, the small white watermelon seeds.
Now for the eats. The best ever watermelon recipe is so simple you need no further details. Just slice the watermelon in inch thick rounds or semi-circles, sprinkle with fresh basil and feta cheese and serve. Your guests will be trying to eat the rind this is so incredibly good. So invite them back! For the rind that is. Pickled and served as a side dish or wrapped in bacon, baked at 350 degrees, cooled and served as an appetizer, either way, the rind is an over-looked delicacy. Considering todayand#8217;s economy and what you paid for the melon per pound, not to mention your table top tribute to a fruit, you really should use all parts.
No, I do not have a recipe for the seeds, so go ahead and swallow them until further notice, but there are some great rind recipes out there handed down from generations of waste not, want nots.
If the pickled rind sounds like too much work, then give the project to the older children or make the chutney instead. This is a recipe you will want to make even when frivolous times are once again upon us. However, should time in the kitchen not be your idea of an acceptable summer activity, then break out that turkey syringe you never got around to using at Thanksgiving, fill with vodka, inject your watermelon and serve cold, away from the kiddie table.
Pickled Watermelon Rind (made with cinnamon sticks)
4 pounds chopped watermelon rind
1 gallon water
1and#8260;2 cup salt
9 cups white sugar
8 cups water
4 teaspoons crushed cinnamon stick
4 teaspoons ground cloves
4 lemons, rinsed, sliced and seeded
1 dash red food coloring (optional)
1. Peel off the green part of the watermelon rind, and slice into 2 inch pieces. Soak the rind in a solution of 1 gallon water and 1and#8260;2 cup salt overnight.
2. Remove rind from the salt water, and place in a stockpot with clean water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the rind is tender. Drain.
3. In a large pot, combine the sugar, 8 cups water, and sliced lemons. Tie the cinnamon and cloves into a cheesecloth bag, and place in the pot. Bring the syrup to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes. Add the rinds, and cook until transparent. Remove spice bag. Stir in red food coloring, if using. Ladle preserves into hot sterile jars, and process to seal.
Watermelon Rind Chutney
Rind from 1 (8-lb.) piece watermelon
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup minced peeled fresh ginger
2 tablespoons minced small hot green chile, such as Thai or serrano (including seeds)
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, coarsely crushed with flat side of a large knife
Scrape off and discard any remaining pink flesh from rind, then cut rind crosswise into 2-inch-wide strips and remove green peel with a Y-shaped vegetable peeler or a sharp knife. Discard green peel. Cut white rind into 1/2-inch cubes (you will have 5 to 6 cups).
Bring rind and remaining ingredients to a boil in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until rind is tender and translucent and liquid is syrupy, 45 to 55 minutes. Cool chutney, uncovered, then chill in an airtight container 1 to 3 days to allow flavors to mellow.
Chutney keeps, covered and chilled, 1 month.