Few fruits evoke summer memories like watermelon, a staple of picnics and barbecues and a favorite of children. But the crunchy, juicy melon, now at its peak, is also special enough that chefs featured it during this summer’s Boston Restaurant Week.
Few fruits evoke summer memories like watermelon, a staple of picnics and barbecues and a favorite of children.
But the crunchy, juicy melon, now at its peak, is also special enough that chefs featured it during this summer’s Boston Restaurant Week.
“Everyone associates watermelon with summertime, spitting the seeds out, feeling the juice run down,” said Michael Leviton, owner of Lumiere in Newton, Mass., and Area 4 in Cambridge, Mass. “There’s that childhood familiarity that will make you smile, especially when you see it in different situations where you’re not expecting it.”
Leviton made a watermelon dessert soup for Restaurant Week, adding lime juice, sugar and Tequila to pureed melon. Elsewhere, watermelon was the basis for a vinaigrette, salad and hot appetizer.
“More and more people are seeing the cool things you can do with watermelon,” Leviton said. “You can roast, grill, puree or pickle it. It’s got sweetness and crunch, and you can pair it with high acid things, which is really cooling and nice in the summer.”
Chefs pair watermelon with feta and other salty cheeses, mizuna and other bitter greens and acidic vinegars. Alternatively, they grill or sear it into a “steak.”
Chef Ken Oringer of K.O. Prime in Boston offered a watermelon and smoked feta salad and a watermelon vinaigrette over mizuna during restaurant week.
Chef Jeff Fournier, owner of 51 Lincoln in Newton has multiple versions of his signature dish of pan-seared watermelon steak. Originally, he served the braised and seared watermelon with eggplant chicharron, confit cherry tomato, French feta and fried parsley. This summer, he prepared it with tomatoes, chick peas, French feta and radishes.
Although most people eat only the juicy flesh, all parts of the watermelon can be eaten. Pickled watermelon rind is a favorite in the South, offering a sweet-and-sour flavor, and roasted watermelon seeds are a popular snack in China.
With locally grown melons at markets and farm stands, the best flavor is available now. And people can indulge without guilt, since watermelons, though sweet, are low in calories and rich in vitamins A, C and B6.
To select a whole melon, thud the rind and listen for a deep, rich sound, which signals that moisture has not evaporated. A cut melon should look bright red and feel firm to the touch. To preserve flavor, keep tightly wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator.
Jody Feinberg may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.