Monday, July 21, 2014

Meatless Monday: The Wonderful Watermelon

Watermelon may not be local just yet in Connecticut, but it is in season in the southern states. That means it’s inexpensive and plentiful in my local stores.

Watermelon is a nutritional powerhouse. Two cups of this colorful fruit provide 8% of the potassium, 30% of the vitamin A, and 25% of the daily requirements of vitamin C, with just 80 calories! 

Watermelon is 92% water. That means eating a slice or two is a cheap and good way to replenish the fluids lost after a few hours spent out in the hot summer sun.

These days there is much more to watermelon than eating it by the slice and seeing how far one can spit the seeds. With the advent of seedless watermelon [more on this next week], this fruit is trending in the food world, as an ingredient in salads, appetizers, salsas, beverages, desserts, and even main dishes. 

A regional chain has me on their direct mail list and sends along the occasional promotional piece, replete with coupons and recipes tailored to my taste. Last week the promoted item was watermelon. With basil in plentiful supply, how could I not try “Watermelon Skewers with Feta?” They make the perfect appetizer to impress your guests, but they are so easy and delicious that you may find yourself wanting to eat them all by yourself, again and again!

  • 1 small watermelon, cut into 48, 1-inch cubes
  • 1 lb. feta cheese, cut into 24, 1-inch cubes
  • 24 basil leaves, washed, patted dry, and cut in half vertically
  • 24 small wood skewers or toothpicks
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • Balsamic Glaze

  • Skewer 1/2 basil leaf, 1 cube of watermelon, 1 cube feta, 1 cube of watermelon, 1/2 basil leaf
  • Drizzle with balsamic glaze
  • Repeat until you have as many skewers as you need

Here’s a tip. Store any remaining ingredients separately in covered containers in the refrigerator. Pick and prepare the basil just before you need it, and you will be able to throw a few skewers together in no time. 

The one “mystery” ingredient  – Balsamic Glaze – is a reduction of balsamic vinegar and some sort of sugar. I found some in a squeeze bottle on the shelf of Trader Joe’s. If you are pressed for time, you can make a substitute by combining honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar and balsamic vinegar in a 1/1 ratio, but it will not be as thick as the bottled kind, and you won’t be able to drizzle it as neatly. If you want to make your own glaze, and time is not problem, there a number of recipes online. Here is a link to one. [Be warned, however, that user comments indicate that if you do not pay attention while the glaze is reducing, you can end up with a mess.]

I also tried “Watermelon Agua Fresca.” According to the recipe, this translates to “juice made with fresh water” and is “a super satisfying way to beat the summer heat.”

  • Watermelon
  • Water

  • Blend together 2-3 parts watermelon with 1 part water

This drink was refreshing, but I found myself wondering why I had gone to the extra trouble when a cold slice of watermelon would have been easier and more flavorful, with fewer dishes. 

For more recipes, check out the recipe section of the National Watermelon Board’s website. You will be amazed at the creative ways watermelon marketers have found to promote their product.

Have fun, and come back next week for the saga of the seedless watermelon.

Happy Monday. Have a great week!

On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

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