Watermelon. Just the thought of it reminds me of childhood summers, leaning over large wedges at outdoor picnics as I took a bite, trying not to let the juice spill onto my shirt. Seed spitting contest with my cousins.
Now, I tend to cut it off of the rind into a bowl and drink the remaining juice. Now is the time to experiment if you are so inclined.
Watermelon is plentiful in supermarkets and farm markets all across the United States. But restricting watermelon to dessert or snack status seemed sad. What about the rest of the meal? Watermelon is power packed, full of vitamins and is a good source of potassium.
So, extending its use could only be a good thing. I wondered if watermelon could have a part to play as a savory in the entrée and or side dish part of the meal.
Last year, after hearing NBC’s Joy Bauer recommend pairing watermelon chunks with feta cheese chunks as a simple salad, I began to investigate the savory side of this delightful fruit.
Local chefs here in the North-South Carolina border near Myrtle Beach were helpful in this effort. Many were using watermelon on their menus, often paired with pork belly as an appetizer, celebrating the contrast of sweet and salty.
These creations were a tasty, but prep was complicated in many cases. So, I turned to the Florida-based National Watermelon Promotion Board (NWPB) www.watermelon.org.
Their Senior Director, Stephanie Barlow gave me permission to share some savory recipes with readers. The website is a treasure trove of ideas for new-to-me uses of watermelon.
Here are my favorites from their website:
Courtesy of the NWPB
- 6 cups torn mixed salad greens
- 3 cups cubed seeded watermelon
- 1/2 cup sliced onion
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
- dash cracked black pepper
In large bowl, mix all ingredients except oil and pepper. Just before serving, toss salad mixture with oil. Garnish with pepper.
Courtesy of NWPB
- 1 9 or 10 inch round herbed focaccia
- 5 ounces Boursin cheese
- 3 grilled skinless boneless chicken breast halves, sliced
- 4 thin slices seedless watermelon
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 3 ounces baby arugula
Split the focaccia through the center as for a sandwich and spread the Boursin over the cut sides of the bread. Arrange the chicken over the Boursin on the bottom piece of bread.
Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the watermelon and grill it quickly over hot coals just to warm. Arrange in an even layer over the chicken and top the watermelon with the arugula.
Place the top of the bread, Boursin side down, over the arugula. Cut sandwich into halves or quarters.
Makes 2 or 3 large sandwiches
Recipe and photo courtesy of NWPB
(Joan’s note—this recipe calls for “salad” shrimp. I prefer to cook wild caught local small shrimp instead and cut them up to the size of the salad shrimp—taste is much better!)
- 2 cups cooked baby salad shrimp
- 2/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon fresh snipped dill
- 12, 4 inch seeded rounds of watermelon about 1/2 inch thick
- 4 large cocktail shrimp
- 4 dill sprigs
Mix together the shrimp, mayonnaise and dill. Chill until ready to serve. To serve, place a round of the watermelon on a serving plate and top with a thin layer of the shrimp salad.
Top that with another round of the watermelon and then another layer of the shrimp salad. Top that with another watermelon round. Place a cocktail shrimp on top with a sprig of dill. Repeat to create four Napoleons.
All recipes in this article are used by permission of the National Watermelon Promotion Board.
Joan Leotta has been playing with words since childhood. She is a poet, essayist, journalist, playwright, and author of several books both fiction and non-fiction for children and adults. She is also a performer and gives one-woman shows on historic figures and spoken word folklore shows as well as teaching writing and storytelling. Joan lives in Calabash, NC where she walks the beach with husband, Joe. www.joanleotta.wordpress.com and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Joan-Leotta-Author-and-Story-Performer/188479350973