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Watermelon Salad with Quick Pickled Jalapeno

Whether you’re lugging home a 15-pounder to slice into wedges or grabbing a pre-cut version, my guess is that your watermelon will generally be served plain. May I recommend you add some intrigue to your melon by pairing its sweet succulent flesh with the fruity spice of jalapeno and acidic tang of lime? The Latin-inspired combination transforms plain ol’ watermelon into a complex dish with loads of sweet and spicy flavor. These 3 recipes are all paired with fresh jalapeno and lime to provide a few more interesting ways to enjoy summer’s unofficial fruit.

Norm’s Notes: Pick a Pepper

I don’t know if it’s because of drought or my selection habits, but most of the chiles (especially jalapeno) I’ve had this year are really, really spicy. Although I generally like spice, sometimes there is such a thing as too hot. If you are in the same boat and want to keep the heat of chiles to a minimum, remove the seeds and inner white membrane with a sharp knife. Doing this will not only reduce the heat level, but will help bring out more of the chiles’ fruity flavor. Also, thinly slicing or finely dicing the peppers helps to evenly distribute the spiciness in a dish, allowing for a more predictable heat level and giving a peppery pop of flavor to each bite.

Watermelon Salad With Quick Pickled Onions and Jalapeno

Makes 6 servings

2 Tbsp. rice vinegar

½ tsp. lime zest

1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

1 Tbsp. sugar

½ tsp. salt

½ medium-size red onion, thinly sliced

1 jalapeno, seeded and thinly sliced

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

8 cups cubed watermelon

1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves

½ cup coarsely chopped cocktail peanuts

¼ cup crumbled queso fresco

 1. Stir vinegar and next 4 ingredients together in a small bowl until blended. Add onion and jalapeno and let stand 15 minutes.

2. Drain onion and jalapeno and reserve liquid. Whisk olive oil into reserved liquid until blended.

3. Toss watermelon, cilantro, onion, jalapeno and reserved liquid mixture together in a large bowl until coated. Top with peanuts and queso fresco. Serve immediately.

Watermelon Salsa

Watermelon Salsa

Makes about 3 cups

2 cups small diced seedless watermelon

1 cup small diced English cucumber

½ jalapeno, seeded and finely diced

2 green onions, thinly sliced

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro

½ tsp. lime zest

2 Tbsp. lime juice

Kosher salt

Stir first 7 ingredients together in a medium bowl until combined. Season with salt to taste. Serve with a slotted spoon.

Note: Serve over tacos of any type or with tortilla chips.

Spicy Watermelon Agua Fresca

Makes 1 quart

 ½ jalapeno, seeded

3 Tbsp. sugar

3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

6 dashes Angostura bitters

Pinch kosher salt

4 cups cubed seedless watermelon

2 cups chilled water

1. Muddle jalapeno and next 4 ingredients in a quart canning jar or large pitcher.

2. Process watermelon in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour through a fine wire mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Let stand 5 minutes or until all juice has been filtered. (It should yield about 2 cups watermelon juice.)

3. Add watermelon juice and chilled water to jalapeno mixture, stirring to combine. Cover and chill 2 to 3 hours or until well chilled. Serve over ice cubes.

One Response

  1. DBCoop says:

    Whoa, watermelon with jalapeño and lime, pickled onion and cilantro? We're talkin' bold flavor here — a salad that can pack some serious heat! That could be a recipe for real 4th of July fireworks.

    So thanks for the tip, Norman, on how to pick and prepare a pair of peppers if you want to pare down the punch this watermelon salad might pack. http://blog.hgtv.com/design/2014/07/03/perfect-fo

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Norman KingNorman is a culinary expert and cookbook author. He first harnessed a love of stirring cast iron skillets atop wooden stools at his grandmother’s stove, leading his heart and feet...

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