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Watermelon – juicy, delectable, versatile and non-fattening
© Sue Courtney
November / December 2004

After dining at Craft (a 'Tapas' bar in Auckland) and tasting a yummy watermelon and feta salad that was well doused with olive oil and sprinkled with pine nuts or pumpkin seeds, I called into a fruit shop and picked up a piece of watermelon on the way home. Watermelon is just coming into season so it is a little pricey at the moment, but cheap when you compare a big hunk of a watermelon to say, a chicken sandwich.

Back at home I found some basil flavoured Bouton d'Or feta (a soft cows' milk cheese made at Puhoi, about half an hours drive north of Auckland central) in the fridge. I also had some fresh asparagus so decided to use that too. I would make a Watermelon, feta and asparagus salad.

The asparagus was blanched in boiling water for about a minute, run under cold water to stop it cooking, then cut into pieces. The watermelon and feta was cut into cube-like shapes of similar size. Dressed with avocado oil infused with basil, freshly squeezed tangelo juice and a seasoning of salt and pepper, this first attempt resulted in a delicious fresh tasting 'salad' that went a treat with a glass of sauvignon blanc and was quite spiffing with a glass of viognier.

I used up the watermelon during the week and it certainly enhanced my 'healthy' grapefruit breakfast. Our grapefruit tree produces big, juicy, dark orange-fleshed fruit that don’t need sugar and being at the end of the season, these were juicy as heck. The sweetness of the watermelon set off the tart grapefruit segments beautifully.

Later that week while rummaging through the cupboard I found some pumpkin seeds. Heaven knows how old they were as I can't remember using any for a while, but the previously opened packet had been rolled up and secured with a rubber band and the seeds tasted OK, so I thought, "they'll do".

Out came the basil-infused avocado oil and a little was splashed in the frying pan. A couple of tablespoons of pumpkin seeds went in to cook gently. When they were about ready (I hate burnt pumpkin seeds) a splash of tangelo juice together with salt and pepper went into the pan to make a warm dressing and the whole lot was poured over a bowl of cubed watermelon and feta pieces. Delicissimo! And so easy!

My sister rang and said, "We're having a BBQ tonight, do you want to come around?"
"Sure", I said. There were no better offers on the table. "What can I bring?"
"Well", she said, "We've got sausages and rissoles already and I'm making a green salad".
"I've got chicken breast in the fridge so I could make some chicken satays and perhaps I can bring a watermelon and feta salad," I suggested.
"Oh yum, I love that. Is it from Peter Gordon's Sugar Club cookbook?".
I had given her the book years ago.
"Heck, I don’t know", I said. "I had this salad at a restaurant and I kind of copied it, though that had thin wedges of watermelon and I have small cubes".

So I did a Google search and Peter Gordon's recipe came up and so did hundreds of others. It seems that watermelon with feta and pumpkin seeds is a popular dish in Greece, Israel and Egypt where the cooling watermelon sets off the salty cheese. I also read about drying and toasting the watermelon seeds, which would then make the ideal garnish for the watermelon and feta salad. Perhaps next year…..

Chilled Melon Soup
More searching on the Internet for watermelon came up with a melon soup recipe. I had been trying to find a decent melon soup recipe since tasting one about 7 years ago. None of these recipes had exactly what I wanted so here's my modified recipe of one from California Home Cooking.

For six serves

- 1/4 of a rock melon, flesh only with seeds removed
- 1/4 of a honey dew melon, flesh only with seeds removed
- about 1/8th of a pink watermelon, the same amount as the rock melon and the honey dew melon together, flesh only with seeds removed
- half a telegraph cucumber, flesh only with seeds removed.
- half a dozen sprigs of fresh mint
- a handful of fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves
- the juice of a tangelo (about 1/4 cup)
- a tablespoon of sweet chilli sauce
- a couple of cloves of garlic
- a couple of chopped spring onions
- 1/3rd bottle of Rosé or dry sparkling wine.

Blend all ingredients in a bowl using a stick mixer – or puree in a food processor if you have one that is big enough.

It is best if the fruit has been chilled before using. Put the pureed mixture into the fridge for up to an hour before serving. Then just before serving add about 1/3rd of a bottle of Rosé or a dry bubbly.

After making it I decided to serve in wine glasses – it makes enough for six glasses. Garnish with a sprig of mint or coriander.
What an interesting start to a dinner party this will make. It is also totally thirst quenching and hunger abating. A great start to a BBQ as well.

Multi-coloured Melon Cocktail Fizz
Inspired by the previous recipe, I though it would be fun to keep the colours separate and came up with this idea for a multi-coloured cocktail, a bit like the "traffic light" non-alcoholic cocktails we were given to drink on special occasions as kids.

Ingredients

- Bright pink watermelon
- Orange Watermelon if you can find it
- Rock Melon (cantaloupe)
- Honey Dew or Prince Melon
- Zest and juice of half a tangelo or orange
- One Kiwifruit
- A handful of fresh coriander leaves
- 4 or 5 strawberries
- Black pepper
- Sparkling wine, such as Lindauer

Use equal proportions of red, orange and green/white melon - for a guidelines use half a honeydew or prince melon and make up the orange and pink melons to the same quantity.
Chill all the fruit and the wine before making this cocktail.

You will need three bowls. A stick mixer is best for blending if you have one.

- Blend the pink watermelon, strawberries and lots of freshly ground black pepper.
- Blend the orange rockmelon with the optional orange coloured watermelon and the tangelo juice and zest.
- Blend the Prince or Honey Dew melon with the strikingly green kiwi fruit and the fresh coriander leaves.
- Now layer the mixtures into a glass, a tall tulip shaped glass is best. I used a Speigelau Festival Bordeaux glass.
- Start with the 1/4 glass of the green, then 1/4 glass of the orange, then 1/4 glass of the pink.
- Pour the sparkling wine into the centre. It will bubble up and create a snow white froth.
It looks a treat when served in the right glass and tastes delicious too.

This recipe was featured with my Lindauer Wine of the Week review.

**********

For pictures of different types of melon see http://www.foodsubs.com/Fruitmel.html.

Sue Courtney's recipes are all original creations unless otherwise stated. Recipes are inspired by the season and by the wine matches.

Kia pai te kai

© Sue Courtney
November / December 2004


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E-mail me: winetaster@clear.net.nz