This is a guest post by Vera Pantanizopoulos-Broux who loves food of all kinds and has a culinary perspective flavored by living in and visiting regions of North America, Europe and West Africa. Spending lots of time in her Greek grandma’s kitchen didn’t hurt either.
Did you know that July is National Watermelon Month?! Yes, folks, it’s official.
Now, back to a true queen of summer fruits. Last weekend while shopping at my new favorite Kroger on Broadway near Fountain City, I decided to knock on a few inviting watermelons of regional descent (I believe they are Kentucky-born). I come from a long line of watermelon eaters, and this rounded green vessel of high pink juices is a favorite summer indulgence in Greece and a dear childhood memory. Remember holding the slice as big as your head, crouching down in the grass with elbows rested on knees? Recall biting into the monster burst of crunchy, juicy sweetness, the watermelon crying down your arms, past your legs and onto the ground? The spontaneous seed-spitting contests with brothers, sisters, cousins, neighborhood friends? I do! Our yia-yiá used watermelon to calm us and hush the air during afternoon siesta times, but we simply loved the cold treat and savored every bite that filled our bellies.
When selecting a ripe watermelon, I usually knock on a few to test the sound they call back to me and look for an outer flatter, lighter cream-colored area surrounded by green on the rind. The sound you hear should be deep and round like a standing West African drum, and the shape of and coloring on the rind tells you she’s been lying in the patch a good long time and wasn’t picked too early! I moved several watermelons around in the cardboard bin and found the one that satisfied my search criteria. I carted her home and refrigerated immediately. After about two days in the fridge, this watermelon was perfectly chilled and ready for serving.
When you cut ripe watermelon, it should crack open almost on its own once you have inserted a larger knife either length – or widthwise. You smell the perfume of the fruit hit your nose almost instantly, and the deep pink flesh becomes exposed. Rustic cuts are best in my book because I like to hold my watermelon with rind and relive the youthfulness of the flavor! This first treat in our house proved perfectly sweet – this time, seedless – and most fragrant. So go get your tongues wet in preparation for the prize of summer harvests and cry out for watermelon, whether at your area farmers markets or supermarkets – get your watermelon on, y’all!
Oh,…and if you’d like to grace the queen with class, try this recipe for minted watermelon popsicles that will bring your summer grill party to a whole new level. Taken from Food & Wine Annual Cookbook 2010:
1 1/2 pounds seedless watermelon without the rind, cut into 1-inch dice (about 4 cups)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup mint leaves, minced
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
Pinch of salt
In a blender, puree the watermelon with the sugar until smooth. Stir in the mint, lemon zest and salt. Pour the puree into 8 popsicle molds or 2 standard ice cube trays (insert popsicle or kabob sticks halfway through freezing) and freeze until hard, about 3 hours. Serves 8.
The watermelon popsicles can be made ahead and frozen for up to 1 week!