Say goodbye to plain watermelon
I ate my childhood watermelon plain, unaware of alternatives. As an adult, though, I nearly always seek a salty component. In Mexico, I learned to eat it with hot red chili and with salt and lime, too. Watermelon salad with sharp feta cheese and black olives was also alluring. Watermelon rind pickles beckoned, sweet, salty and cider-vinegary.
Salt or a salty element is the perfect complement to watermelon’s sweetness. A splash of olive oil, a little acidity or some chopped onion are all welcome.
I wanted to make a simple gazpacholike cold watermelon soup, and I discovered that watermelon purée could handle a fair amount of seasoning.
Chilled Watermelon Soup
Yield: 4 to 6 servings 7 cups diced watermelon, cut into 1-inch cubes Salt and pepper Pinch of cayenne 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
2 cups diced honeydew melon or cantaloupe, cut into 1-inch cubes 2 cups diced cucumber, cut into 1-inch cubes 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons snipped chives Handful of small basil leaves Handful of small mint leaves Pinch of crushed red pepper (optional) Pinch of flaky salt (optional)
Put 5 cups of diced watermelon in a food processor or blender and blitz to a purée. Strain purée through a fine-meshed sieve into a bowl. You should have about 4 cups purée. Season with salt and pepper and cayenne, 1 tablespoon vinegar and 2 tablespoons lime juice. Taste and adjust seasoning. Chill bowl on ice or refrigerate.
To serve, place remaining diced watermelon, honeydew melon and cucumber in a small mixing bowl. Toss with a little salt and pepper, 2 tablespoons lime juice and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Divide mixture evenly into chilled soup bowls.
Ladle watermelon purée into each bowl. Sprinkle with chives, basil and mint. Add a sprinkle of crushed red pepper and flaky salt if desired. Pass lime wedges separately.