Friday, July 3, 2009

At Market...Watermelon

The fantasy of long, hot summer days (which will appear sooner or later I suspect) helps me to conjure up images from my childhood. Most of our time was spent splashing in the backyard pool, our hair green and swimsuits threadbare come September. In the afternoons, we’d sit around the table outside with huge crescents of watermelon in hand, the juice running in streams down to our elbows and coloring our cheeks like rouge.

Back then, the watermelons in the markets were massive specimens filled with hard, black seeds. My mother would dutifully knock on them, seeking out the perfect hollow sound to determine ripeness. We were always thrilled when they were cut open to reveal firm flesh that was deep crimson in color at its heart. We’d munch on long slices, sitting side-by-side on the deck, spitting the seeds out onto the grass. Now, it’s nearly impossible to find watermelons with real seeds. My kids are baffled when they come across the occasional black one in theirs, and explaining how watermelons used to be (before the small, seedless variety became the norm) is almost like trying to describe life before home computers, ipods or cell phones.

But fortunately for all of us, old school watermelons (and some gorgeous heirloom varieties) can still be found at our farmers' markets. (Though I suspect the melons will be a bit delayed this year on the east.) As always, fruit in season tastes best, and I never buy a watermelon in January for that very reason. In fact, the only time to enjoy them is during mid to late summer, when they are at their peak. Their skin, which ranges in color from deep to pale green, should be smooth, with a yellow spot on the bottom where it rested as it grew on the vine. And it should sound hollow when tapped. Be sure to look out for watermelons with beautiful yellow or cream colored flesh for an unusual treat.

There are so many delicious ways to enjoy this gift of summer. I like to blend mine into a luscious margarita or frozen lemonade or in a sweet and savory salad with mint, feta cheese and arugula. But quite possibly my favorite thing to make with watermelon is a granita, which is kind of like a rustic, chunkier version of a sorbet. It’s a light and refreshing way to end a summer meal and is especially terrific because it doesn’t require an ice cream maker. The lime juice cuts the sweetness of the melon and the ginger adds an intriguing touch of spice on the tongue. It's kind of like a snow cone for grown ups.

Watermelon Ginger Granita
Makes 2 C

4 C watermelon chunks, seeded if necessary
½ C sugar
Juice from 1 lemon or lime
1 T ginger juice* (bottled or squeezed from fresh ginger root)

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth. Pass mixture through a seive to catch any stray seeds then pour into a 9 x 13 pan and freeze for one hour. Rake with a fork and freeze for one hour more. Rake again and return to the freezer for another hour. Rake again and serve.

*Making ginger juice is easy. Simply grate fresh ginger onto a square of cheesecloth or paper towel using the fine side of a cheese grater. There is no need to peel the skin. Wrap the grated ginger in the cloth or paper towel and squeeze the juice out into a small bowl.


Teresa Cordero Cordell said...

Alison, I have to try your watermelon granita. I've made the watermelon margaritas, but never a granita. Sounds deliciously tasty. My mind is conjuring up memories of summers gone and watermelons eaten by the slice. Great blog. Congrats on your FFF Award.

Trish said...

Ahhhh....well...I'll give you some of our heat in exchange for a bit cooler weather! This looks very good indeed! Healthy and cool.

the twins said...

that looks great, thanks for the recipe! i love granitas, they are so refreshing. i made a strawberry one a few weeks ago and it was so good.