Jun 23, 2013

WATERMELON, What the Angles Eat.

Moloka'i Crimson Sweet Watermelon
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When I was living in the deep south as a kid, summertime meant watermelon, and watermelon meant getting rid of those pesky seeds in order to get to that sweet red flesh. My friends and I would have seed spitting contests to see who could spit them the furthest, it was a boy thing.

Now that I'm much older, living in Hawaii, it turns out that the island I live on, Moloka'i, has the best watermelon I have ever eaten. Mid June on Moloka'i is not only the beginning of summer, but the beginning of the sale of our Crimson Sweet watermelon. A variety averaging around 25 pounds. This melon has exceptionally deep red flesh that's sweet and luscious.  

Moloka'i is well known for it's watermelon, I guess the sun, the soil, and the water must be perfect for growing them here. About 50 years ago, when commercial farming was more of a way of life on Moloka'i, watermelons were grown in large quantities and sold to other islands. Unfortunately those days are gone now, but thank goodness they're still being grown here by a few small farmers. On the main street of downtown Kaunakakai yesterday I saw 3 different pickup trucks selling beautiful watermelons. 

Ripe watermelon is not just made of sugar and water, it's full of phenolic antioxidants, flavonoids, lycopene, and vitamin C, at least that's what the Internet says, and everybody knows that the Internet is always right. All I know is that watermelon tastes sweet and refreshing on a hot summer day. Mark Twain once said, "When one has tasted watermelon, he knows what the angels eat."

Watermelon Recipes:
Watermelon Cups
This simple recipe makes a great pupu (appetizer), or you can make up something on your own to fill the watermelon cups.

1 small watermelon
1 (4-ounces) goat cheese log, softened
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Garnishes: fresh basil and freshly ground pepper

Procedure to make watermelon cups:
Cut half of watermelon into 1-inch-thick slices. Cut slices into 25 rounds, using a 2-inch round cutter. Scoop just enough melon from tops to form indentations, using a melon baller. Stir together goat cheese, basil, salt, and pepper. Spoon into indentations. Chill 1 to 2 hours. Garnish, if desired. Makes 10 to 20 servings.

Watermelon Ice Cubes
Pour your favorite beverage (orange juice, mango juice, pineapple juice, lemonade, etc.) over these watermelon ice cubes for a beautiful way to enjoy summer.

1 large watermelon, regular or seedless

Cut watermelon into workable pieces. Remove the seeds and the rind, or buy a seedless watermelon. Puree the watermelon pulp in a blender of food processor (for extra smooth juice, pour through a strainer and run a spoon through the pulp to allow the liquid to run through it). Pour the puree into ice cube trays and freeze.

Watermelon-Raspberry Lemonade
Everyone in your ohana will enjoy this combination of flavors.

6 cups watermelon cubes (seeds removed)
1/4 cup frozen raspberries
1 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup lemon or lime juice

Place watermelon, raspberries and water in container of electric blender, cover and blend until smooth. Strain through fine mesh strainer into pitcher. Stir in sugar and lemon juice until sugar dissolves. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Makes 4 servings.

Spiked Watermelon Balls
Here's a unique way to spike up your next luau. Serve these little red rum balls in a martini glass, or individually with a fancy toothpick stuck in them.

1 small, ripe, watermelon
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup light rum
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon grated lime peel

Bring the water to a boil. Stir in sugar and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the rum and simmer for another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool somewhat before adding the lime juice and the grated lime peel. Cut melons into balls with a melon baller. Pour the syrup over the fruit, mix gently, cover and chill for several hours before serving. Makes 8-10 servings.

Watermelon Margarita
4 cups cubed watermelon (seeds removed)
2 tablespoons sugar
3 limes, 2 juiced and 1 cut into wedges for garnish
8 ounces tequila
5 ounces Triple Sec, divided
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon chili powder

In a blender, puree the watermelon and sugar until smooth. Pour the puree through a fine mesh strainer. Transfer the liquid to a pitcher and add the lime juice, tequila and 4 ounces of the Triple Sec. Stir to combine.

In a shallow dish, combine the kosher salt with the chili powder. In a second small plate, add the remaining 1-ounce of Triple Sec. Dip the rims of 4 margarita glasses in the Triple Sec, then coat them in the salt and chili mixture. Divide the margarita between the 4 glasses and garnish each with a lime wedge. Makes 4 servings.

Cucumber-Watermelon Salad
4 cups watermelon, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 cups Japanese cucumbers (about 2 large cucumbers), peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons seeded and finely diced jalapeño, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
black pepper
1/3 cup coarsely chopped lightly salted pistachios.

Combine melon and cucumber in a colander set over a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.

Transfer melon and cucumber to serving bowl. Whisk lime juice, hoisin sauce, jalapeño and salt in a small bowl and pour over cucumber and melon. Add parsley and toss gently. Add black pepper to taste and additional salt if needed. Sprinkle the salad with pistachios. Makes 6 to 8 servings. 

Note: Add grilled shrimp to the top of this salad to make a main course. Shortly before serving, light a grill or heat a grill pan. In a large bowl, toss the shrimp (3 or 4 large shrimp, shelled and deveined, per serving) with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the shrimp over high heat until browned and just cooked, about 3 minutes per side. Place grilled shrimp on top of melon and cucumber before adding the dressing and pistachios.

Thai Chicken and Watermelon Salad
2 stalks of fresh lemongrass, pale inner core only, minced
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, butterflied
2 Thai chiles, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
2 tablespoons water
2 1/2 pounds seedless watermelon, cut in 1/2 inch slices, then cut into rounds.
1/4 cup each of chopped cilantro and mint

In a bowl, combine the lemongrass, oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Light a grill and oil the grates. Grill the chicken over moderately high heat, turning once, until cooked through and lightly charred, about 6 minutes. Let cool slightly, then cut into slices.

In a mini food processor, combine the chiles, garlic, brown sugar, lime juice, fish sauce and water and pulse until the chiles and garlic are finely chopped. Pour the dressing over the chicken and watermelon rounds. Sprinkle with cilantro and mint. Makes 4 servings.

Kung Pao Watermelon Shrimp
2 tablespoons peanut oil
6 cloves garlic, sliced
2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and cleaned
1 cup dry roasted and salted peanuts
1 cup prepared Kung Pao sauce (purchased in the Asian section of your grocery store)
2 cups chopped watermelon

Heat the oil in a large heavy sauté pan or wok over high heat . Sauté the garlic for 30 seconds and then add the shrimp. Stir-fry until the shrimp begin to cook and plump up. Add the peanuts and sauté another 30 seconds. Reduce heat to low and add the sauce. Simmer just until shrimp are cooked. Remove from heat. Stir in watermelon and serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

Watermelon-Yogurt Ice
Yumm! Watermelon combined with vanilla yogurt for a creamy, icy dessert.

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
4 cups diced seedless watermelon
1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 tablespoon lime juice

Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan. Cook, stirring, over high heat until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer to a glass measuring cup and let cool slightly. Puree watermelon in a food processor or blender, in 2 batches, pulsing until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl. Whisk in the cooled sugar syrup, yogurt and lime juice until combined. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into another large bowl, whisking to release all juice. Discard pulp. Pour the extracted juices into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. (Alternatively, pour into a shallow metal pan and freeze until solid, about 6 hours or overnight.

Remove from freezer to defrost slightly, 5 minutes. Break into small chunks and process in a food processor, in batches, until smooth and creamy.) Serve immediately or transfer to a storage container and freeze for up to 2 hours. Makes 8, 1/2 cup servings. 

Note: If frozen longer than 2 hours, break into chunks and puree in a food processor until smooth before serving.

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