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Thump First, Then Slice, Grill Or Spike!

Watermelon Salsa
By Cheryl Hill-Burrier

Thank goodness for watermelon, since it's just about the only thing in this extreme Texas drought that's water retentive. But, there's a whole lot more you can do with watermelon than just slicing and eating. So, let's thump one out and whip up some chin runnin' watermelon recipes to grill, mix or spike, all of which go great with some light, summertime fish or shrimp!

I don't know if I told y'all or not, but Larry and I recently sold our house in town and moved back to the country onto a little piece of property that was advertised as "perfect for building your dream home." We knew we had a chance at a slice of heaven on earth when we read that it included a large pond, so we jumped on it like fleas on a dog. Of course, it took longer than we thought to tie up all of the real estate odds and ends, but we finally did it. Now, here we sit outside, high upon a breezy hill in front of our little travel trailer waiting for the new house construction to begin.

The view through the trees and across the pond is -- wait, what happened to the pond? Yep, the drought evaporated the whole darn thing, and our beautiful field is now dehydrated hay. But, we quickly refocused and set our expectations on an active hurricane season; it is Texas, after all. Now, up with our bootstraps and on to the watermelons!

Texas Watermelons

By weight, watermelon is the most-consumed melon in the U.S., followed by cantaloupe and honeydew. And, while nearly every state in the U.S. grows watermelons, Texas is one of the leading producers. (Watermelons in Texas, Texas A&M) So, let's get started with a quick melon-choosing lesson.

First, lift up the melon and check for bruising, cuts or dents. It should be fairly heavy for its size since it's 92 percent water. Next, (and if you're not a member of the World Wrestling Federation), set the melon on the seat part of your grocery buggy and turn it over, checking for minimal color contrast between the stripes and making sure that the surface color is dull. Also, watermelons will have an area where they rested on the ground while growing, so be sure and check to see if this area is a yellow-white, yellow, or cream-yellow. Cream-yellow means it's ripe. If you find an area that's white or a whitish-green, the melon's not ready.

As far as the "thumping" method goes, that can be a toughy. The sound from the thump is supposed to be hollow or dull to prove ripeness, but this can be frustratingly misleading since it can't prove the difference between a ripe melon and an overripe one. The smell test for a sweet aroma is also a little tricky, not to mention the fact that I personally don't want to be lifting and sniffing my afternoon away. I'm hungry!

And, speaking of delays, before we get into the recipes, I just want to tell y'all real quick how healthy these big ol' things are! Packed with some of the most important antioxidants in nature, watermelons are a great source of Vitamin C and Vitamin A, through their concentration of beta-carotene. In fact, high intakes of vitamin C and beta-carotene have been shown in a number of studies to reduce the risk of heart disease, reduce the airway spasm that occurs in asthma, and reduce some of the symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The pink watermelon is also a source of lycopene (like that in tomatoes), which has been repeatedly found to protect against a growing list of cancers that include prostate cancer, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, lung cancer and colorectal cancers.

As far as the "thumping" method goes, that can be a toughy. What a great way to stay healthy, hydrated and happy, just by eating watermelon!

Watermelon Salsa

  • 3 cups medium-diced (1/2-inch dice) watermelon
  • 1/2 cup red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 large tomato, seeds and pulp removed, finely diced
  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed and seeded, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Measure out 3 cups of the diced watermelon and, taking a handful at a time, squeeze out most of the juice over the sink. Place the watermelon and remaining ingredients into a bowl and gently toss. Cover the bowl or place salsa into a lidded container and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve with tortilla chips. Makes about 2-1/2 cups.

Spiked Watermelon Sorbet

  • 3 pounds watermelon, peeled, deeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup vodka
Place watermelon cubes, sugar, lemon juice and vodka into a blender and purée until smooth. Pour the mixture into a lidded container and freeze overnight. Makes 4 cups.

Grilled Watermelon

I'm serious.
  • 8 1-1/2-inch watermelon wedges, seeded
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
Cut the watermelon in half lengthwise and place each half cut side down on the table, which will hold it in place. Cut 1-1/2-inch thick slices, and cut each slice in half, creating a total of 8 wedges. If the watermelon is really large, cut each slice into 3 or 4 wedges. Leave the rind on. Set each wedge (rind side up) onto a tray or rack, and let them drain for about 20 minutes.

Preheat the grill to high. Lightly brush the watermelon with olive oil and grill over high for about 2-1/2 minutes per side or until grill marks form. Remove from the grill and lightly salt and pepper each wedge. Makes 8 servings.

Spicy Grilled Watermelon with Jalapeño Sauce

This jalapeño sauce is also great on grilled fish, shellfish, chicken, beef or served with tortilla chips.
  • 1 pound (about 20) jalapeños, seeded, deveined and chopped
  • 6 to 8 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 8 1-1/2-inch watermelon wedges, seeded
To protect your skin from the jalapeños, wear rubber gloves when removing the seeds and veins. Roughly chop each jalapeño and place into a blender or food processor with the garlic, vinegar, salt and sugar. Pulse to a coarse purée. Stand back a little when removing the cover from the blender to avoid "fumes" from the jalapeños. Pour the sauce into a container, cover and refrigerate for about at least 2 hours before using.

Cut the watermelon in half lengthwise and place each half cut side down on the table, which will hold it in place. Cut 1-1/2-inch thick slices, and cut each slice in half, creating a total of 8 wedges. If the watermelon is really large, cut each slice into 3 or 4 wedges. Leave the rind on. Set each wedge (rind side up) onto a tray or rack, and let them drain for about 20 minutes.

Preheat the grill to high. Lightly brush the jalapeño sauce on the watermelon slices and grill over high heat for about 2-1/2 minutes per side or until grill marks form. Sauce will last for 1 to 2 months in the refrigerator. Makes about 1-1/2 cups.

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