Love the bright flavor and subtle sweet perfume of fresh melon? Well, they're in season and there are so many ways to use them. Whether you're looking for a light dinner or a colorful summer side, may we suggest some ideas:
Take everything you love about summer and arrange it beautifully on a plate. Juicy heirloom tomato wedges and bright chunks of cool watermelon come together perfectly in this salad from the Hungry Cat, punctuated with the light spice of arugula and floral notes of fresh basil and mint. Crumbled feta adds a nice hint of richness, and the tangy watermelon vinaigrette brings it all together.
Chef Todd Aarons of Tierra Sur was happy to share his recipe for a light, refreshing melon gazpacho, perfect for a hot day. He suggests using heirloom melons from the farmers market, such as those from Weiser Family Farms. He particularly likes their Sugar Queen, butterscotch or Ogen melons. Aarons also suggests using slightly underripe melons, since you don't want the soup to be too sweet.
Or try this: a watermelon and feta salad with cumin-lime dressing from Food editor Russ Parsons. He writes that "what really makes the dish work is the flavor pairing of power with power. The watermelon is so explosively juicy and sweet that you can add all kinds of big tastes — not just salty feta but also jalapeños! toasted cumin! lime! fresh mint! — without overwhelming it. In this watermelon salad, the whole is even greater than the sum of its parts, no matter how large they might be."
For more ideas, click through our easy dinner recipes gallery and check out our Dinner Tonight page, devoted to recipes that can be made in an hour or less. Looking for a particular type of recipe? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HUNGRY CAT'S TOMATO AND WATERMELON SALAD
Total time: 40 minutes
Note: Adapted from the Hungry Cat in Hollywood. To make a watermelon reduction, juice all or part of a watermelon (using a juicer, a blender or food processor and straining), then simmer until the juice is reduced by half.
1/2 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/4 to 1/3 cup watermelon reduction
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
In a medium bowl, whisk together the shallot, garlic, mustard and vinegar. Slowly whisk in the watermelon reduction, then whisk in the oil until fully incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This makes about 1 1/3 cups vinaigrette, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe; the vinaigrette will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 1 week.
Tomato and watermelon salad
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided, more to taste
3/4 teaspoon pepper, divided, more to taste
4 cups diced seedless watermelon
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup crumbled feta cheese, preferably French feta
8 to 10 basil leaves, torn (preferably opal basil)
8 to 10 mint leaves, torn (preferably Persian mint)
4 cups loosely packed arugula
1/3 cup watermelon vinaigrette, or to taste
1. Cut the tomatoes into wedges and spread them out on a sheet pan. Season with one-half teaspoon each salt and pepper and set aside for 15 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, toss together the tomatoes, watermelon, onion, feta, basil, mint and arugula. Gently toss in the vinaigrette. Taste and season with one-fourth teaspoon each salt and pepper, or to taste. Add additional vinaigrette to taste as desired before serving.
Each serving: 300 calories; 9 grams protein; 23 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 21 grams fat; 7 grams saturated fat; 33 mg cholesterol; 17 grams sugar; 883 mg sodium.
TIERRA SUR'S HEIRLOOM MELON GAZPACHO
Total time: 30 minutes, plus chilling time
Servings: 4 to 6
Note: Adapted from chef Todd Aarons at Tierra Sur in Oxnard.
2 cups cubed French baguette or batard, all crusts removed, and cut into small cubes (about 1 baguette), divided
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white wine, Champagne or sherry vinegar
4 cups cubed, peeled and seeded melons (preferably heirloom, such as Sugar Queen, butterscotch, Ogen, Ananas)
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra oil for frying the croutons
3 dried bay leaves, ground to a powder
1/2 cup ice cubes, or as needed
Smoked paprika, garnish
1. In a bowl, soak 11/2 cups cubed bread in the vinegar.
2. Meanwhile, using a blender or food processor, puree the melons and red onion. Add the soaked bread and vinegar to the food processor and puree until completely smooth.
3. With the motor running, slowly add the one-fourth cup olive oil, then the ground bay leaves. Taste, and adjust the seasoning with salt.
4. If the soup is overly thick, add a few ice cubes and puree until the desired consistency is achieved. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and vinegar.
5. Transfer the soup to a nonreactive metal bowl and chill before serving. This makes about 4 cups soup.
6. While the soup is chilling, fry the garnish. Pan-fry the remaining cubes of bread in a hot skillet with a little olive oil until evenly toasted and golden-brown. Season to taste with a light sprinkling of salt.
7. Serve the soup, garnished with a few croutons and a sprinkling of paprika.
Each of 6 servings: 145 calories; 2 grams protein; 14 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 10 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 7 grams sugar; 93 mg. sodium.
WATERMELON SALAD WITH FETA, MINT AND CUMIN-LIME DRESSING
Total time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6
2 pounds watermelon cubes
1 pound feta, cut in cubes
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1. Combine watermelon, feta and jalapeño in serving bowl.
2. Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan over medium heat until they become fragrant and begin to pop, about 2 minutes. If using a mortar and pestle, grind the cumin seeds to dust, add lime juice, salt to taste and oil and whisk to a smooth emulsion. If using a blender, combine the cumin seeds, lime juice, salt and oil and blend until smooth.
3. Just before serving, add half of the dressing to the watermelon mixture. Toss gently to keep everything whole and taste the salad. If desired, add more dressing. Add the chopped mint and toss gently.
Each of 6 servings: 281 calories; 12 grams protein; 16 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 20 grams fat; 12 grams saturated fat; 67 mg cholesterol; 13 grams sugar; 847 mg sodium.