Melon and Watermelon Recipes

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You can freeze melons as melon balls and they will taste pretty good, but melon rind pickles are about the only other way to preserve them. Melons are nearly always served in fresh form. A mixed melon salad with cut-up chunks or balls of one or more fruits is about the easiest dishes around. A fruit smoothie is also easy. Play with various herbs to add an interesting touch. Peppermint or mints in general are a classic combination with melons of all kinds, but less common combinations such as tomatoes, peppers, red onion and spices may also appeal.

Watermelon Rind Pickles

  • 2 quarts watermelon rind
  • 3/4 cup sea salt
  • 3 quarts purified water
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 cups raw apple cider vinegar
  • 3 cups purified water
  • 1 Tbsp. whole cloves (about 48)
  • 1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
  • 6 cinnamon sticks broken into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 Tbsp. ground allspice

Trim the pink flesh and the green outer skin from the rind. Cut rind into small strips, about 1″ x 2″. Cover with brine made by combining 3 quarts filtered water and 3/4 cup sea salt. Refrigerate overnight. Drain and rinse in the morning. Cover the watermelon with water and bring to a boil; continue cooking until just fork-tender, about another 15 minutes. (Pay attention – overcooking will cause the rinds to become rubbery.) Drain. Combine sugar, vinegar, 3 cups water and spices in a separate pan. Boil 5 minutes and then pour over watermelon. Refrigerate overnight. Heat watermelon in syrup to boiling; reduce heat to medium and simmer for one hour to reduce a bit. Pack the hot watermelon pickles loosely into clean, hot pint jars. Cover with boiling syrup, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; apply two-piece metal lids. Without sealing, these pickles will last 2 weeks in the refrigerator. To can and seal, submerge the hot, full jars in boiling water (enough water so the jars are 1-2″ below the surface); boil for 15 minutes (or slightly longer at higher altitudes).

Watermelon Rind Pie

  • 2 cups watermelon rind, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup pecans, chopped
  • pie pastry for 2-crust pie, homemade or purchased

Place watermelon rind in a small saucepan; add water to cover. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 2 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat and drain. Combine watermelon rind with sugar, flour cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt, vinegar, raisins, and pecans; stir to combine then set aside. Preheat oven to 350°F. Fit 1 pie crust into a 9-inch pie plate. Pour watermelon rind mixture into the pie crust. Top with remaining pie crust; fold edges under, trim excess dough and save. Crimp all around the edge. Cut small slits or holes in the top crust. Using excess dough, form small “watermelon seeds” and place all around pie for decoration. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until golden, shielding edges of pie with strips of aluminum foil after 25 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Cool watermelon pie on a wire rack. Serve.

Watermelon Ice Cream

  • 4 cups diced seedless watermelon
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 dash salt
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 (.25 ounce) envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup chilled heavy cream

Combine the watermelon, sugar, lemon juice, and salt in a large mixing bowl; stir to coat evenly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerator for 30 minutes. Blend the mixture in a blender until smooth; return to the bowl. Pour the cold water into a saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water; let stand 1 minutes. Place the saucepan over low heat; cook for 2 minutes. Stir the gelatin mixture into the blended watermelon mixture. Add the heavy cream; beat with an electric hand mixer at medium speed until the mixture is fluffy. Transfer the mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions until it reaches “soft-serve” consistency. Transfer ice cream to a one- or two-quart lidded plastic container; cover surface with plastic wrap and seal. For best results, ice cream should ripen in the freezer for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Melon Salsa (from Sunset Magazine)

  • Charentais has orange flesh, but you can use any orange- or green-fleshed melon for this salsa – just not watermelon, because its flesh is too fragile and watery. This salsa is great with grilled chicken or pork.
  • 2 cups diced orange-fleshed melon, such as Charentais (1/4- to 1/2-in. cubes)
  • 1 cup diced cucumber (1/4- to 1/2-in. cubes)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion1 serrano chile, stemmed, halved, and sliced
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon mild olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Covered and chill for up to one day.

Watermelon Salsa

  • 2 cups seeded and coarsely chopped watermelon
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 3 tablespoons seeded, chopped Anaheim chile
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic salt

Very gently mix together the watermelon, onion and chile pepper. Season with balsamic vinegar and garlic salt. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour to blend flavors.

Green Gazpacho

  • 2 cups diced honeydew melon
  • 1 English (seedless) cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 avocado – peeled, pitted, and chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Blend honeydew melon, cucumber, onion, avocado, jalapeno pepper, garlic, white balsamic vinegar, lime juice, salt, and black pepper in a blender until smooth. Adjust seasonings if desired and chill before serving.

Watermelon Marinade

  • ½ cup watermelon juice
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons very mild-flavored olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

Stir all ingredients together. Pour enough sauce over vegetables, chicken, pork, fish or shellfish to marinate. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight. Baste with additional sauce while grilling or broiling. Sauce not used for marinating or basting can be spooned over cooked vegetables and meats.

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Melons and Watermelons

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One of the best reasons to have a big summer garden is to grow melons and watermelons. Sitting on the back porch (or anywhere else) eating watermelon and vying with the kids to see who can spit the seeds the farthest is a favorite summertime sport. There is no way a store-bought melon can be ripe because they’re picked green (although sometimes the ones at farm stands and farmers markets are ripe), and they are not usually the sweetest varieties. Back in the day, melons were only grown locally because they tended to have thin rinds. Since shipping wasn’t an issue, growers concentrated on flavor. With the advent of railroads and big trucks, melons – especially watermelons – were selected for thicker rinds as they held up better in shipping. Flavor went by the wayside. Since they’re green when picked and they don’t ripen off the vine, they just get softer, not sweeter. Supermarket shoppers have no idea what’s really out in the melon world: pocket-sized melons carried for fragrance rather than eating; giant red-fleshed sweeties; yellow, orange, cream, pink, red or green flesh; even a striped orange and yellow melon called ‘Tigger,’ after the Winnie-the-Pooh character. If you’ve always bought melons from the grocery (or even from farmer’s markets and roadside stands), heirloom melons from your own garden will be a revelation. One of the first things you’ll notice is the aroma. Some older melons, like Green Nutmeg from the 1800s, were grown as much for their luscious scents as their eating qualities.

Growing Melons

Melons are for the summer garden only – they’ll sulk or rot if the soil is too cool. If you do it very carefully and before they are three weeks old, you can transplant them. Grow them in a container that allows you to tip the soil mass and root ball out intact; handle them very gently. You will get better melons if you prune them. Shorter vines mean more nutrients go to the fruit instead of the leaves. Remove the end buds when the vines are two to three feet long. Prune fruits as well, so you only have one or two fruits per vine (that’s individual vines, not the whole plant). You can slice these little unripe fruits for stir-fries or salads, or use them in chutney. If you’re seed-saving, remember that all melons will cross. The seed lasts well. Gardeners in the 1700s and 1800s typically preferred seed that was four to 10 years old as the plants were shorter and produced more intensely flavored fruit.

My Favorites

  • Kleckly’s Sweet Watermelon – also known by the moniker “Monte Cristo,” this is a high sugar, thin rind watermelon that can’t be shipped. Burpee introduced it in 1897.
  • Diamond Rattlesnake Watermelon – a true Southerner, reportedly developed in Georgia around 1830. Although it was used as a shipping melon, it’s a high sugar variety and needs time to ripen on the vine, so in those days, it wasn’t shipped very far. There’s a similar variety called Georgia Rattlesnake that I think is probably the same thing or at least closely related.
  • Old Time Tennessee – This is similar to an elongated cantaloupe in appearance, but the rind is more deeply creased. High sugar content and lots of fruity undertones. It’s fragile and doesn’t keep well; harvest when ripe and eat immediately.
  • Hale’s Best Cantaloupe – this 1920s cantaloupe has stood the test of time because of its flavor. It can handle drought a little better than most melons, but much better to keep it well-watered. It might be a good candidate for a dryland garden, though.
  • Crenshaw – probably my husband’s favorite melon. Oval and greenish-yellow, but the sweet flesh is salmon pink. Originally a cross between the Casaba and a Persian melon. First introduced to American gardeners in 1929.
  • Bidwell Casaba – Chico, California, is about 120 miles (as the crow flies) from where I live. General John Bidwell, an important citizen in the town, obtained seed stock for this melon in 1869 from the USDA. He grew them for many years and they were locally famous for their taste. The fruits are very big; some may weigh 16 pounds. The football-shaped melon yields creamy orange flesh that people often say tastes like orange sherbet.
  • Ananas – Thomas Jefferson loved this melon and grew it at Monticello in 1794. It’s very rare today, which is a shame, as the light green flesh is sweet and highly perfumed. Another one that doesn’t keep well.
  • Melon Vert á Rames or Green Climbing Melon – preserved by the French National Institute of Agronomic Research and spread through the US by the Seed Savers Exchange. Usually grown as a climbing vine, they look like small acorn squash but in a pale green. The hard skin allows them to be picked later in the year and used as “winter melons.”
  • Winter Valencia – related to the honeydew. Thomas Jefferson grew a similar variety called the Malta melon, now lost. These were often planted in mid-July so they ripened just before the first frost. They were picked ripe and stored in root cellars, then brought out for use from December through February.
  • Jenny Lind – you won’t find this grown commercially. Introduced in the 1840s, it was named for the famous opera singer known as the Swedish Nightingale. The fruit has a distinct knob, called a turban, on the end.

Like peppers, it’s hard to choose just one, but if I had to, I would go with the Hale’s Best for an all-around melon and the Kleckley’s Sweet for a watermelon. In both cases, I’m going purely for flavor. Melons, generally speaking, are high in fiber. Different melons have different nutritional benefits. For example, cantaloupe is a good source of vitamin A, while watermelon (like tomatoes) is high in lycopene. Both are high in vitamin C.

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Pepper Recipes

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When it comes to nutrition, peppers are loaded with fiber, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, potassium and manganese. They are also very versatile, and can be used raw in salads or as crudités, fried, stewed, stuffed and dried. I can’t speak to the taste of the recipes that use bell peppers since, as previously mentioned, they don’t like me. My victims – err, taste testers – say they’re good.

These are the three simplest, fastest ways to prepare peppers. Wash and quarter; remove membranes and seeds (if it’s a hot variety, either wear gloves or wash your hands very thoroughly the minute you’re done. Do NOT touch your eyes!). Then:

  • Slice them about 1/4-inch thick and eat raw, plain or with a dip.
  • Saute sliced peppers in coconut oil.
  • Slice in half and roast on the grill.

Beef and Rice Stuffed Bell Peppers

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 1/2 cups marinara or other tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, optional
  • 1 1/2 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 cup finely grated “real” Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano)
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced very fine
  • 1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 4 large red bell peppers

Add the olive oil to a saucepan, and lightly brown the onions with a large pinch of salt over medium-high heat. Remove half and reserve for the stuffing. Stir in the rest of the sauce ingredients and bring to a simmer. Pour the sauce into the bottom of a large deep casserole dish. Add all the filling ingredients to a mixing bowl, along with the reserved onions, and stir with a fork, or your hands, until the mixture is combined. Tip: you can cook a small piece of the filling to test the seasoning. Preheat oven to 375 °F F. Cut the bell peppers in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to remove the stem, seeds and white membrane from each pepper. Place the bell peppers in the casserole dish, and fill each pepper with the stuffing. A little additional cheese can be grated over the top if desired. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake uncovered for another 20-30 minutes, or until the peppers are very tender. Exact cooking time will depend on size, shape and thickness of the peppers. Best to let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with the sauce spooned over the top.

Pepper Bites

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons chopped peppers, your choice
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 cups dry breadcrumbs or almond meal

Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine the cream cheese, Parmesan, peppers and egg yolks in a bowl and mix to form a paste. Shape a 1/2 tablespoonful at a time into 1/4-inch rounds and roll in the bread crumbs/almond meal. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Pepper Relish

  • 24 sweet peppers (12 red, 12 green)
  • 12 onions
  • 6 hot peppers or to taste
  • 1 quart vinegar
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons salt

Grind all together. Pour hot water over this and let stand 5 minutes; drain. Heat vinegar salt and sugar to boiling, ensuring the salt an sugar are fully dissolved. Pour this hot mixture over peppers and onions. Bring to boil and boil 5 minutes. Seal in sterilized jars.

Chicken Provencal (from Filippo Trapella – philosokitchen.com)

  • 1 chicken
  • 3 bell peppers, mixed colors
  • 8 shallots
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 12 oz fresh tomatoes (alternatively, tomato pulp)
  • 16 black olives
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 8 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp mixed fresh herbs (mint, basil, and parsley)
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Salt to taste

First of all, reduce the chicken into pieces (or buy them already separated). The tradition wants the chicken skin on, but if you prefer, discard the skin. Now, peel the shallots and cut them into halves. Then peel and crush the garlic cloves. Finally, cut the bell peppers, discard the stems and seeds, then reduce into pieces or sticks. Pour 6 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil into a skillet (best if cast iron), then place over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, but not smoky, pan-fry the shallots and garlic until golden and slightly brown (not burned). Remove from pan and place into a bowl. In the same skillet and same oil, pan-fry the bell peppers as well. In the same skillet and with the same oil, pan-fry the chicken pieces until golden, then remove the meat and store in a plate, saving the oil. If needed, add more olive oil during the frying. Add the fresh tomato pulp or canned pulp. Place the pan over low heat, add the bell pepper, the shallots, the rosemary and the thyme, then cover and cook until the chicken is well done (about 1 hour and 15 mins). If you are preparing the Chicken Provencal in advance, let the skillet reach room temperature, then store covered into the fridge up to 3 days. Once ready to serve, reheat slowly. Ten minutes before serving, add the black olives and the lemon juice, add salt to taste and keep cooking a few minutes more. Once ready, add the minced fresh herbs and a sprinkle of black pepper, then serve immediately.

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