Watermelon: Beyond the wedge

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 10, 2011

By Alison Ladman
Associated PressWhen it comes to creative ways to consume watermelon, we tend to shortchange ourselves.
There is the classic feta cheese, tomato and watermelon salad. There are various riffs on lemonade spiked with pureed watermelon. And, of course, there are innumerable variations on traditional fruit salad. But we wanted something more unique, more interesting.
Which, oddly, took us back to tradition. In some parts of the country, pickled watermelon rind is a staple. But in most of the U.S., the rind is just nature’s way of adding a handle. So we started there. Then we moved on to the sweet, juicy flesh, transforming it into a pudding fit for a tart.
Finally, we blended orange and elderflower liqueur with vanilla to create a delicious syrup for marinating strawberries and watermelon.
Sweet Watermelon Rind Relish
This recipe calls for watermelon rind with the thin outer dark green skin removed. The easiest way to do that is to use a paring knife to cut away the red flesh, then use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin.
Start to finish: 1 hour
Makes 3 cups
1 tsp. whole cloves
1 tsp. whole allspice
4 C. watermelon rind, green skin removed, cut into 1/4-inch chunks
1 1/2 C. sugar
1 C. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. salt
2 cinnamon sticks
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into chunks
On a 6-inch square of cheesecloth, combine the cloves and allspice. Tie the cloth into a bundle.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the watermelon rind, sugar, vinegar, salt, cinnamon sticks, ginger and spice bundle. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 hour, or until the watermelon rind is tender. Allow the watermelon to fully cool in the liquid. Remove and discard the spice bundle, cinnamon sticks and ginger. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Watermelon Pudding Tart
Start to finish: 20 minutes, plus cooling
Servings: 8
1 1/4 C. graham cracker crumbs
5 Tbs. butter, melted
2 1/2 C. watermelon flesh
2 Tbs. lemon juice
2 eggs
1/4 C. cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
Whipped cream
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-inch removable bottom tart pan with baking spray.
In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs with the butter, stirring until well mixed. Press the mixture into the prepared tart pan. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden.
Meanwhile, in a blender puree the watermelon until completely smooth. You should have 2 cups of juice. Strain the juice through a fine mesh strainer into a small saucepan. Add the lemon juice. Over medium-high heat, bring the juice to a simmer.
In a medium, heat-safe bowl, whisk together the eggs, cornstarch and sugar until smooth. In a slow and steady stream, pour the hot juice into the egg mixture while continuously whisking. Pour the mixture back into the pan and continue to cook, whisking until thickened. Pour the watermelon pudding into the baked tart crust.
Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding and refrigerate until cold. Serve with whipped cream.
Marinated Watermelon and Strawberries
Start to finish: 2 hours 30 minutes (15 minutes active)
Servings: 4
1/2 C. sugar
1/4 C. water
1 vanilla bean
1/4 C. elderflower liqueur
2 Tbs. orange liqueur
1 1/2 C. fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
2 C. cubed watermelon flesh
In a small saucepan, combine the water and sugar. Use a paring knife to split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the pan, then add the pod. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, then remove from the heat and cool fully. Remove the vanilla pod. Stir in the elderflower liqueur and orange liqueur.
In a medium bowl, combine the strawberries and watermelon, then pour the syrup over them. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Serve in glasses.