In addition to being completely emblematic of summertime, beloved by eaters of all ages, aesthetically vibrant, and delicious in almost any form (seriously—have you ever turned down a watermelon margarita?), watermelon is, in fact, having a moment. Now making cameos on chefs’ menus and in recipes across the globe, it offers a sweet, light alternative to red tomatoes, among other brilliant uses.
“A good watermelon will never let you down,” raves chef and cookbook author Camille Becerra. “It is so fresh and hydrating.” If somehow you’re tired of picnic-ready slices; fresh-squeezed, vitamin C–packed juice; or a whole watermelon saturated with a bottle of Ketel One (yes, we have borne witness to this), read on for a few innovative ways to use this formidable fruit.
Spicy Watermelon and Lime Popsicles
- 2 cups watermelon juice
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup lime juice
- 1 tbsp ancho chili powder
- 2 tbsp flaky sea salt
Make the watermelon juice: Blend cubed watermelon on high for 30 seconds. Strain the liquid through a sieve to remove the pulp.
In a small saucepan, combine sugar with ½ cup water. Bring to a simmer, remove from heat, and cool completely. Combine ½ cup of the syrup with 2 cups watermelon juice.
Pour into Popsicle molds and freeze for 1 hour. Carefully insert sticks into molds. Freeze for at least 3 more hours. Meanwhile combine the remaining syrup with lime juice and chill thoroughly.
When the first layer of Popsicles is fully frozen, top with the lime juice mixture. Freeze completely, about 2 hours longer. Combine ancho chili powder and flaky sea salt in a small bowl. Dip ends of Popsicles into chili salt just before serving.
Tip: Subdue the sweetness of the fruit with chili powder for an unexpectedly spicy treat.
Oysters With Pickled Watermelon Rind Mignonette
For the pickled rind:
- 2 lbs watermelon rind, pared of all pink parts
- ¼ cup salt
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 tsp cloves
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp whole peppercorns
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced
Cut rind into 1-by-2-inch pieces. In a large bowl, combine salt with 4 cups water. Soak rind in brine overnight. The next day add remaining ingredients to a saucepan and bring to a low simmer. Add rind and simmer for 30 minutes. Pack rind in hot sterilized jars and cover with boiling liquid, or use immediately.
For the mignonette:
- ¼ cup watermelon juice (see Spicy Watermelon and Lime Popsicles for method)
- ¼ cup champagne vinegar
- ½ cup pickled watermelon rind, finely diced
- ¼ cup shallots, finely diced
- 2 tbsp coarsely ground black pepper
Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.
Tip: Soak the melon’s rind in salt water (brine) overnight for a perfectly pickled mignonette.
Boozy Basil-Infused Watermelon Jell-O Shots
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 2 cups watermelon juice (see Spicy Watermelon and Lime Popsicles for method)
- ½ cup vodka
- Juice of 2 limes
- 4 tbsp grass-fed gelatin
- Silicone cube ice tray or another mold
- Nonstick cooking spray
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and ½ cup water. Bring to a steady simmer, stir, then remove from heat and stir in chopped basil. Cover and steep for 15 minutes.
Prep the ice cube tray: Spray lightly with cooking spray, wiping out any excess with a paper towel.
Combine basil syrup, watermelon juice, vodka, and lime juice in a large bowl. Pour about half of this mixture into a saucepan and heat until just simmering. Sprinkle gelatin over the remaining juice mixture and let dissolve. Pour hot juice mixture into the bowl and whisk to combine. Pour the juice into silicone mold immediately. Chill for at least 3 hours before serving.
Tip: Mix fresh basil with watermelon juice to better bring out its herb notes and flavor.
Chermoula-Rubbed Mahi-Mahi With Grilled Watermelon and Spicy Greens
- 2 lbs mahi-mahi filets
- 1 seedless watermelon, approximately 5 to 6 pounds
- Small bunch fresh cilantro
- Small bunch fresh parsley
- Small bunch fresh mint
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 tsp cumin seeds, lightly crushed
- 1 tsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed
- 1½ cups olive oil, divided
- ½ cup lemon juice, divided
- Coarse ground black pepper
- 4 cups mixed spicy greens, such as arugula, watercress, and baby mustard, rinsed
Season fish on both sides with plenty of salt and coarsely ground pepper.
Make the chermoula: Coarsely chop half the cilantro and half the parsley and combine in a medium bowl with garlic, cumin, coriander, ½ cup olive oil, ¼ cup lemon juice, and two large pinches of salt. Stir to mix, then rub the chermoula onto both sides of each fish filet, coating thoroughly. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile cut the watermelon into 1-inch-thick round slices, then remove the rind to make 6 watermelon “steaks.”
To make the very green herbal dressing, very finely chop remaining parsley and cilantro and all of the mint. Combine in a bowl with remaining olive oil and lemon juice, and salt to taste.
Preheat a grill to medium-high heat and brush both sides of watermelon steaks with olive oil and season lightly with salt. Place filets on grill, skin side up, and surround with watermelon steaks. Grill for 4 minutes, then flip watermelon and fish and grill for 2 to 3 minutes longer, until fish is just cooked through. Serve pieces of grilled fish and watermelon together on a plate with spicy greens dressed in very green herbal dressing. To take your picnic table to the next level, tie pink cord around rosy linens in lieu of napkin rings.
Tip: “Grilling it [watermelon] does something remarkable,” explains Becerra. “It brings out vanilla notes you never knew were there.”
Frozen Watermelon Granita Cocktail
- 4 cups watermelon juice (see Spicy Watermelon and Lime Popsicles for method)
- ½ cup sugar
- 3 tbsp lime juice
- Vodka (optional)
Combine watermelon juice, sugar, and lime juice in a large bowl. Pour into a 9-by-13-inch glass or metal baking dish. Cover and freeze for 1 hour, then scrape and mash the mixture with a fork. Repeat twice more. Scrape vigorously before serving. To serve: Fill a cocktail glass with about 8 ounces of the granita. Top with a shot of vodka and garnish with a lime wheel.
Tip: Make a pure juice by cubing a watermelon (sans rind) and then blending on high for 30 seconds. Afterward strain the liquid through a sieve to remove the pulp.