Adventures in watermelon

by Brittany Grace

There is nothing I can think of that says summer more than the first watermelon of the season. Earlier this season, I noticed a stand a few blocks away from my house, with a hand-painted sign advertising local melon and an old Chevy pickup parked next to it. I immediately stopped and bought a big, oval, emerald green watermelon and hauled (and I do mean hauled – that thing must’ve weighed 8 pounds) the beast into my muggy kitchen, where the powers of my taste buds overcame me. The logic of my brain said to put the thing in the fridge to chill, but I couldn’t contain myself. I found the sharpest knife in my ramshackle drawer of utensils, and began to carve the First Watermelon of the Season, aka, My Personal Initiation to Summer.
As soon as I heard the rind snap cleanly under the knife and I saw the vibrant pink flesh of the melon’s inside, my face began to change shape. I was elbow deep in sticky fruit juice, standing in a hot kitchen, and I was smiling. I stood at my counter, slowly cut myself a chunk of that perfect melon flesh, and savored its goodness. For a brief moment, my stresses and distractions disappeared. After another moment, I realized I had become blithely engrossed with the watermelon that was overtaking my countertop. This was summertime, and I was in love.

Since then, Grace’s Goodness has been experimenting with watermelon as a meal. A watermelon salad adapted from Atlanta’s now-defunct restaurant The Globe was basically a twist on a traditional Caprese salad. I tried another adaption by replacing the mozzarella in that salad with goat cheese. A salad from the Hans Rueffert cookbook “Eat Like There’s No Tomorrow” featured the fruit with jicama, tomato, and cayenne pepper. I like that recipe and adore that book – the Ruefferts are nothing short of being inspiring, talented and hard working role models. I am ¬†also thinking about making a chilled watermelon basil soup.

But what’s been best has been the most simple.

During an impromptu gathering of friends on a Saturday night, I came up with a yellow watermelon snack that was hot, sweet, and savory, with a hint of coolness at the end…kind of like an August summer night, on a front porch, before a storm.

A few days after the snack success, an old friend requested information on some sort of watermelon salad. Jenni, this is definitely for you!

Impromptu yellow watermelon snack (feeds 6 or so)

1 large yellow watermelon, chilled

Few pinches of cayenne pepper

Agave nectar

Sea salt

1 handful of fresh mint sprigs

Chop the watermelon off the rind into roughly the same sized cubes; deseed so there are no black seeds in the flesh. Place cubed melon in mixing bowl. Tear fresh mint into little pieces about the size of gummy bears; add to melon and toss gently. I find that hands work better when tossing fruit salads – that way the fruit is less likely to get bruised. Sprinkle with about a teaspoon of cayenne pepper and a few pinches of sea salt; drizzle with agave nectar. Chill for an hour or so – this salad is much better cold, after the flavors have had an opportunity to fully blossom. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy while closing your eyes and cementing this taste of sun in your brain (it will be a great memory to access during the dead of winter).

Did you know watermelon was first harvested in Egypt?! Click here for more facts!