We’re exploring the many ways to prepare one of summer’s most underestimated fruits: Watermelon. We’ve partnered with Samantha Weiss Hills from Food 52 for fresh recipes ideas and cooking tips.
Watermelon is king where I come from. In Southern Indiana, the long, sticky summers revolve around this melon; there's never a meal without those vibrant green, pink, and black-flecked wedges. And it's true the rest of the year, too: Every August in my hometown, there's a watermelon festival, where Miss Watermelon is crowned, but there's also a "Watermelon Drop" to stand in for the Times Square ball on New Year's Eve.
Six percent of the country's watermelons are grown in the state of Indiana — quite an output for a small state. But despite a childhood flush with this fruit, I was a hard sell on it. It was pink (I was a tomboy), it was weird to chew (I had a thing with texture), and there was just so much of it (enough already!).
This skepticism endured through my teens and 20s, as I worked hard to avoid the fruit that everyone I know loved. I smiled and said "No, thank you" at cookouts, even when people who learned where I grew up were incredulous about the rejection ("How can you not like watermelon!?" they'd say). I became so steadfast in my feelings that I would refuse it on principle, even though a small part of me started to wonder, "Might I actually enjoy it?"
Things changed dramatically (and instantly) when I was presented a slice as complimentary dessert at Lucali, our local pizza joint, one sweltering evening last summer. I immediately grabbed it and started nibbling at the edge, the sweet juices a welcome cool-off. My husband stared at me peculiarly: But by the time I heard his "You don't like watermelon, remember?" there was little left but rind.
So much for sticking to your morals. I was now in an exploratory phase with watermelon. "Finally!" I'd like to think my childhood friends would react if I told them today.
And when I tried this grilled variation, it solidified the deal. I was a full-blown, true-blue watermelon-lover.
A quick dip in tequila-lemon marinade, a sprinkle of salt and chili powder, and a short visit to the grill pan (or over hot coals) produces a spicy-sweet dessert that holds up on the plate without resting too heavy in your stomach.
Add a dollop of lime-cilantro crème fraîche — or don't, because the watermelon turns out that good — and serve it up at the next cookout you're at. Or just grill a couple pieces for yourself on a weeknight, sit it atop some greens, and call it dinner.