Monthly Archives: September 2012

Farewell Summer and Goodbye Watermelon

I snapped this photo yesterday on my way to work.

Autumn’s arrived. Crisp, clear, crystal blue skies and leaves the shades of fire. Chilly mornings and warm afternoons.

I am excited for the start of autumn. To wear my skirts with bright tights, boots and to layer on the cardigans. To roast squash, simmer soups and bake apples. Here’s the thing: I’ve had these watermelons hanging out, overstaying their welcome and refusing to leave.

Watermelon unequivocably resonates summertime. You see my dilemma.

I love my CSA, but watermelon every week for what seems like forever is wearing a bit thin. My relationship with watermelon is akin to the family friend whom you like, but drives you crazy after about an hour. It’s not like I don’t like watermelon, I do, I just don’t love it. You are always pleased to see them, happy to reunite after time spent apart … and then you are ready to go your separate ways. Enough is enough.

Watermelon, two ways

The problem is that I cannot stand to throw out food. I’m a frugal foodie – not in the money sense, I certainly don’t have a problem opening up my wallet to expensive ingredients, but I hate wasting food. It’s why I made half a dozen angel food cakes this summer in order to use up all of the egg whites I’d saved from my ice cream adventures. So what to do with watermelon?

Watermelon-lime-mint-aqua-fresca

First off, pair it with mint and some citrus.

Watermelon-mint-feta-salad

And if you’d like, add some salty cheese and a hint of heat.

Watermelon Lime and Mint Aqua Fresca: This was an excellent way to use up a lot of watermelon and is a riff on the raw rhubarb juice that I adore. Whew. And a cinch to pull together, with only four ingredients. Fantastic on it’s own, but is also quite appealing as a twist on a gin and tonic (add gin) or a mojito (add rum). One small watermelon yields 3-4 cups of juice.

Watermelon Salad with Feta and Mint: I first made this salad when I was in the Pacific Northwest and it was entirely decent. I made it again, using half of the Yellow Doll watermelon (yes, a yellow watermelon!) from my CSA, swapped shallots for the onion and added a pinch of cayenne pepper to the dressing and I was ready to re-evaluate my feelings toward watermelon. Perhaps I’d be okay if it married into the family.

Watermelon, Two Ways

Watermelon Lime Mint Aqua Fresca
makes ~4 cups 
**********
1 small watermelon, deseeded and chopped in 2-inch chunks
juice from 2 limes
1 cup mint
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
**********

In a food processor, combine the watermelon and lime juice. Process until there are no more watermelon chunks. Pour through a fine mesh sieve and discard pulp. In a small saucepan, combine mint, sugar and water. Bring to a boil and cook until sugar has dissolved and the mint has wilted. Pour through the mesh strainer into the watermelon-lime juice, pressing hard on mint leaves to extract all their flavor. Stir to combine.

Watermelon Salad with Feta and Mint
from Food and Wine
makes ~2 servings
**********
Salad
1 small watermelon, deseeded and cut in 1/2 inch pieces
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped mint
1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles
 
Dressing
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
**********

In a large bowl, combine watermelon, diced shallot, mint and feta. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, lemon juice, salt, black and cayenne peppers. Toss with watermelon.

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Let it be

I’m trying something new. Savoring the present. Not pushing too hard. I’m a goal-oriented person and for the past several months I’ve been throwing myself into my work. Or rather the future of my work. Stressing out over what’s next. Manuscripts, grants, job applications. And I’ve been hitting a wall. Then stressing out about stressing out. Around and around with absolutely no progress.

Summer is over. What exactly happened? The entire thing just passed me by. Likely because I’ve been so preoccupied with figuring out “What next?” that I didn’t hardly take any time to just be. So that’s my new goal.

I made this red pepper and walnut dip while I was visiting my family at the end of August. A gathering with my father’s side of the family. I was enamored with the idea of this recipe, excited while making it and then I tasted it and my reaction was something akin to “eh” (complete with a shoulder shrug). So I fussed; adding salt, tasting, adding some cayenne, tasting again, adding some garlic powder, tasting again … until finally just deciding to let it be. I wasn’t completely happy with it, but fearful that I would start making worse rather than better. I went on to finish the rest of dinner.

A couple of hours later, the family descended upon the house amidst a magnificent sunset. A lovely gathering of people who are not only related to each other, but genuinely care for one another. Yet another reason I miss home so dearly. And you know what? The red pepper and walnut dip easily garnered the greatest reviews. Something magical happened when it was allowed to sit, assimilating all of the flavors that I had assembled. All it needed was for me to give it a little time, to back off and let it come together naturally.

I’m taking my lesson from this dip. Giving myself some time. To be where I am at.

Perhaps something magical will happen.

Red Pepper and Walnut Dip
slightly fussed with from Food and Wine
**********
juice from one lemon
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 slices day-old bread, cubed
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
5 tablespoons olive oil
5 red bell peppers, cut into thin strips
1/4 cup water
3 garlic cloves, smashed
2 small dried red chile
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 
 
pita chips
**********

In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice and vinegar. Add the bread cubes and toss to coat. Set aside and let the bread soak up the liquid.

Toast the walnuts in a 350º oven for about 5 minutes. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the bell peppers, water, garlic cloves and dried chiles. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are tender, about 10 minutes. Uncover and cook over high heat until 3/4 of the liquid has evaporated. Discard the dried chiles.

Transfer the peppers to a food processor and let cool until warm. Add the soaked bread and pulse to a thick, coarse paste. Add the walnuts until coarsely ground. Season with remaining salt, cayenne pepper and garlic powder.

Let sit, at room temperature, for at least a couple of hours. Serve with pita chips.