Watermelon stars in recipes from appetizers to desserts

2013-06-18T22:22:00Z 2013-06-26T20:34:21Z Watermelon stars in recipes from appetizers to dessertsEloise Marie Valadez Eloise.Valadez@nwi.com, (219) 933-3365 nwitimes.com

With summer officially around the corner, it's the perfect time to celebrate one of America's favorite fruits.

Watermelon will be making appearances at picnics, festivals, yard parties and other events this summer.

Whether you prefer to eat it as simple slices out of hand, make it into a thirst-quenching drink or mix it into a delicious fruit salad, watermelon is a great ingredient to add to a variety of dishes.

"Watermelon goes well with a lot of different recipes. It can handle a lot of different flavors," said Stephanie Barlow, director of public relations and social media for the National Watermelon Promotion Board.

Barlow said ingredients such as feta cheese, balsamic vinaigrette, other fruits, herbs, assorted spices and more pair well with the sweet fruit.

The success of pairing assorted ingredients with watermelon also has to do with the fact it doesn't have an overpowering flavor on its own.

While watermelon is available year-round for food fans to enjoy, there's something about warm temperatures that stir up cravings for the cool treat.

America's love affair with watermelon, Barlow said, has a lot to do with the "fresh factor."

The sweet red fruit is also perfect for a healthy diet as it is 92 percent water and contains vitamins, amino acids, minerals and is rich in antioxidants.

Barlow said every year members of the National Watermelon Promotion Board get into the kitchen to develop a batch of new recipes for the popular fruit. They include savory entrees, salads, desserts, drinks, and iced concoctions as well as creative carving ideas.

"We try to come up with recipes that are relevant to today," she said.

During the month of July, the National Watermelon Promotion Board  will present a carving contest. To learn more about the Carving Contest, visit watermelon.org and let your creativity shine.

Try your hand at the following recipes for watermelon. (All recipes were developed by the board).

Watermelon Feta Bruschetta

2 tablespoons olive oil (preferably extra-virgin)

2 cups diced watermelon

1 cup feta cheese, cut into fine dice

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

2 tablespoon minced fresh mint

4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, or to taste

For 16 toasts:

A 24”-long loaf of crust Italian or French bread

1 garlic clove

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a bowl toss together watermelon, cheese, chives, mint, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste and mound about 1 tablespoon on oiled side of each toast.

To make toasts: Prepare grill or preheat broiler. With a serrated knife cut bread crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Arrange bread slices in one layer in a shallow baking pan and bake in middle of oven until golden, about 10 minutes.

Chunky Watermelon Lemonade

2 cups water

1/3 cup (or to taste) raw sugar

2 cups seedless watermelon puree

1 fresh lemon, sliced thinly

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups chopped seedless watermelon flesh (optional for the “chunky” element)

In a half-gallon pitcher with lid, mix 1 cup of the water with the sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Stir in the rest of the water, watermelon puree, sliced lemon, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Stir to mix well and chill thoroughly.

Serves 2 to 3.

For the chunky watermelon lemonade, stir in the 2 cups of chopped watermelon at the end.

Watermelon Mozzarella Sandwiches

8 slices seedless watermelon (4 x 6 x ½” thick)

2 cups homemade* or homemade style, bread and butter pickles (sandwich stackers)

(*A lot of farmers’ markets have vendors with these as well as gourmet supermarkets)

2 cups chopped fresh basil leaf

16 1/4-inch thick slices fresh mozzarella cheese

Divide the bread and butter pickles in an even layer over 4 of the slices of watermelon. Sprinkle the basil leaf over the pickles. Place an even layer of cheese over the basil using four slices per sandwich. Place a remaining slice of watermelon atop each sandwich.

Using two decorative picks each, secure the sandwiches together such that you can cut them diagonally into 2 pieces. Serve sandwiches with corn chips or over greens as “fork sandwiches.”

Serves 4.

Watermelon Slice Popsicles

Watermelon slices, cut to triangular wedge shapes, about 1/2 - 1” thick

Popsicle sticks

For an easy, fun take on the yummy watermelon slice, insert a popsicle stick into the rind! It makes clean up a breeze. Kids love it! You can also freeze the slice popsicles for a chilly, refreshing treat.

Watermelon Strawberry Mint Salsa

1 cup diced watermelon (seeds removed)

3/4 cup diced strawberries

1/4 cup diced red onion

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves

2 tablespoons diced seeded jalapeno chile

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 teaspoon sugar (optional, to taste)

Gently stir together all ingredients in bowl. Let stand to blend flavors, about 1 hour. For a dynamite combination, serve salsa with Caribbean or jerk seasoned grilled items, or with pretzels.

Breakfast Six-Layer Trifle

4 cups minced watermelon

3 cups organic fat free vanilla yogurt

2 cups low fat natural granola

3 cups organic fat free peach yogurt

2 cups organic crisp rice cereal

2 cups shredded coconut

Spread the vanilla yogurt over the bottom of a deep glass casserole or trifle dish. Layer the remaining ingredients in the order listed above in even layers over the vanilla yogurt. Terrific for a brunch party.

Serves: 8 to 12.

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