Aug. 3, 2012 at 3:17 PM ET
August 3 is National Watermelon Day, so why not spend the whole weekend celebrating? Instead of the usual run of watermelon refreshers, we decided to dive into savory dishes made with the fruit.
At SoBou in New Orleans, executive chef Juan Carlos Gonzalez has created the Three Melon Gazpacho (recipe below), which combines watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew with red, green and yellow bell peppers, tomatoes, Crystal hot sauce, basil and shrimp. Executive chef Susie Singh of Highpoint Bistro in New York grills up the fruit and has created a watermelon “steak” au poivre (recipe below).
"Watermelon is a perfect fruit for savory dishes because of its versatility and texture,” she said. “When served hot off the grill, the flavor of the sweet watermelon becomes explosive with our savory marinade and smoky char of the grill. It is delicious and refreshing, ideally suited for the hot summer weather."
Watermelon also goes great with cheese. At Anfora in Manhattan, Parmigiano is added to the watermelon and cherry tomato salad. The sweet fruit also gains a new aromatic dimension by the addition of spicy arugula. At Il Buco Alimentari, also in New York, ricotta is paired with house-made pickled watermelon rinds, which showcases another method of turning the fruit into a savory treat. This approach is also used at nearby L’Artusi, where their heirloom tomato and watermelon panzanella salad with black pepper bacon (recipe below) utilizes both the pickled rind and cubes of the fresh, pink fruit. With the bacon, Italian bread, and basil, it’s a perfect main course. You can also find pickled watermelon in Los Angeles, where it seems to always be summer. There, at Lukshon, chef Sang Yoon offers Hawaiian butterfish with pickled watermelon.
No matter how you slice it, watermelon is a versatile fruit. Try these recipes below to get a taste of its savory side!
Susie Singh’s Watermelon “Steak” Au Poivre
Au poivre seasoning:
1. Cut watermelon lengthwise, about a 2-inch thickness
2. Cut watermelon planks into rectangles, about 3 inches by 4 inches.
3. Place in deep container and marinate with the oil and vinegar for about an hour.
4. Mix sugar, salt, and all of the pepper. Remove the watermelon from its marinade and generously season with mixture.
5. Place the watermelon steak on a pre-heated grill, set to high. Let the sugar caramelize till it becomes bright red.
6. After 5 minutes, flip the steak over and grill for another 5 minutes. 7. Serve on top of the shaved jicama salad and asparagus.
L’Artusi’s Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Panzanella Salad
Watermelon pickle: Can be made ahead. Place watermelon rind in a heatproof container. Bring champagne vinegar and sugar to a boil. Pour over watermelon rind. Let sit for at least 30 min. Store in refrigerator. Before serving, drain off the liquid.
1. Lay bacon out on a sheet try and generously season with black -pepper. Then Bake in a 350-degree oven until desired crispiness (approximately 20 to 30 minutes).
2. Toss the bread in 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Generously season with salt and pepper, then arrange on a sheet tray and toast in the oven for 10 to12 minutes until golden. The bread can be toasted at the same time as the bacon cooks.
3. Place 2 slices of bacon on each plate. Arrange heirloom tomatoes and watermelon on each plate, on top of the bacon. Season the tomatoes and watermelon with a little salt and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
4. Toss together the pickled watermelon rind, toasted bread, cherry tomatoes, basil, lemon juice, and remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.
Chef Juan Carlos Gonzalez’s Three Melon Gazpacho
1. Combine all but the last 4 ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.
2. Season to taste with hot sauce, cane vinegar, salt and pepper.
3. For a smoother soup, you can strain through a fine colander, but not necessary.
4. Serve cold, garnish with fresh chopped basil.
5. Top with crab-boiled shrimp, if desired