Watermelons can be found everywhere in the south, from home gardens to restaurants to roadside stands, and for good reason – they’re refreshing. The juicy melon provides tasty hydration on a hot summer day and it’s just plain fun to eat. My grandchildren and I will never grow tired of eating a slice of cold watermelon out in the backyard and seeing who can spit the seeds the farthest, but when you’re not enjoying the fruity refreshment with children, you may want to give these more sophisticated watermelon serving suggestions a try.
Cut watermelon into one-inch slices (with or without rind) and about the size of your palm. Brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place on hot grill rack and grill for 2-3 minutes on each side until the surface begins to caramelize. Place hot, grilled watermelon slices on a serving tray and squeeze the juice of a fresh lime over them, then add a pinch of paprika to each slice and serve.
Sauté fresh shrimp in a hot skillet with a little olive oil. After 2-4 minutes when shrimp is no longer pink, transfer it from the skillet to a serving platter. In the same skillet add 1 inch cubes of watermelon, a quarter-cup of water and salt to taste, Cook over medium heat for about three minutes until the water has reduced down. Pour hot watermelon with liquid over top of cooked shrimp. Top with diced cucumber, crumbled feta cheese, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and drizzle of olive oil. A little of your favorite dried or fresh herbs, like oregano or basil, can also be tossed on top of the shrimp sauté.
Watermelon and Avocado Salad
Remove watermelon rind and set aside, cut melon into thin strips. Hull and slice an avocado into thin strips along with a peeled onion. Toss all the strips together, then place on a bed of your favorite lettuce, baby spinach leaves or watercress. Top with a splash of balsamic vinegar.
Pickled Watermelon Rinds
We pickle everything in the south, a tradition that started centuries ago as a mean of preserving food prior to refrigeration and the pickling tradition lives on. Don’t toss out the watermelon rind, pickle it with this quick-pickle recipe.
Cut the rind of half a watermelon into desired shape (small pieces, like one inch cubes or one inch by half-inch strips work best).
Combine 1 cup of white vinegar, ½ water, 1 cup sugar, 2 ½ teaspoons of salt, 1 star anise and a 2 inch piece of peeled, chopped ginger in a large sauce pan. Bring mixture to a rolling boil, stirring often to dissolve sugar. When pickling mixture reaches the boiling stage, add watermelon rind and bring to a boil the second time, allow to boil for one minute. Remove from heat and let cool. Transfer pickled watermelon rind to a large, lidded container or a couple of smaller lidded containers, then pour as much pickling liquid over the rind as the jar will hold. Place lid on the jar(s) tightly and refrigerate overnight before eating. Pickled watermelon rinds will last up to one month in the refrigerator.