5 Ways to Take Your Watermelon to the Next Level

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5 Ways to Take Your Watermelon to the Next Level

If you ask me, summer is about two things and two things only: tomatoes and watermelons. In the Northeast, where I’m based, we’re still a few weeks away from really solid tomatoes. (The tomatoes I just picked up this past weekend were still nearly as grainy and flavorless as they are in January—I am suffering.) Technically, our watermelon season shouldn’t begin until August, but I’ve already grabbed a few this season that were super sweet and juicy. Still, I’m excited for the ripest and freshest watermelons of the season, something to look forward to in the midst of the rapidly approaching heat wave.

When I was a kid, I only ever ate watermelon on its own, cut up into small, forkable pieces or into triangles with the rind still attached, perfect for holding while the juice drips onto the grass below your feet. One summer in college, though, a friend prepared a massive platter of watermelon by first cutting the fruit into bite-sized chunks and then drizzling it with lemon juice and sprinkling with salt. After taking a single bite, I was hooked; it was the best watermelon I’d ever had. From that moment on, I started viewing watermelon as a versatile ingredient, not just a novelty fruit to be eaten on its own.

That’s why I’ve compiled this list of some of my favorite ways to eat watermelon. Use these suggestions in your own kitchen, or create your own summery riffs for a juicy, refreshing watermelon season.

1. Sprinkle Your Watermelon with Salt and Citrus Juice

If you’re the kind of person who generally prefers savory foods over sweet ones, then this may just be the ideal watermelon preparation for you. The combo of citrus and salt adds a zingy, savory note to the otherwise mild flavor of the watermelon, but it’s all subtle enough that it’ll appeal to just about everyone. When my friend prepared this recipe, he used lemon juice, but lime works just as well. I prefer flaky sea salt on my watermelon because it adds a crunchy textural element, but any salt will do. Finish it all off with some citrus zest if you want to add a pop of color.

2. Enjoy It with Tajín

If you have Tajín, the popular Mexican chile-lime seasoning, in your spice rack, then you probably already know that it’s delicious on a wide variety of fruits like mango and kiwi. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s just as enjoyable on watermelon. Truthfully, you can just sprinkle some Tajín on your watermelon for an easy fruit salad situation, but I also like adding a squeeze of lime to highlight those bright, fresh flavors even more.

3. Grill Your Watermelon

I’m a huge fan of grilled fruit, especially during the summer months. However, a lot of home cooks assume that they can’t cook watermelon on the grill due to the fruit’s high water content. In reality, though, grilled watermelon is a treat: It develops a firm, almost meaty texture after it’s been on the grill for a few minutes. Just make sure the heat isn’t turned up too high, and try to leave the fruit on the grill for long enough to develop those appealing grill marks.

4. Add Jalapeños 

Don’t like watermelon because it just doesn’t have that much flavor to it? You’re not alone. A lot of people find watermelon to be relatively bland. If you’re looking for a way to add a lot of flavor without very much effort, you may want to consider adding some chopped jalapeños to your bowl of watermelon. That heat and earthy flavor works really well with the light fruitiness of watermelon, and when the two elements come together, they really balance each other out. Just stick to the watermelon-and-jalapeño combo, or add salt, pepper and/or olive oil to the mix.

5. Drizzle Your Watermelon with Olive Oil and Add Feta

When you want your bowl of watermelon to be a bit more substantial, you may want to turn to feta. The cheese’s light, salty flavor and crumbly texture provide a nice contrast to watermelon’s ultra-watery consistency, and a drizzle of oil brings it all together. That extra bit of fat also helps to make the fruit dish more filling. Add some basil along with salt and pepper if you want to turn it into an easy watermelon salad.

Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.

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