Watermelon is perhaps the most summery of fruits. Refreshing, light and juicy, the jumbo melon brightens up salads, desserts, frozen treats and more.
Merchants Pub & Plate
Executive chef TK Peterson of Merchants Pub & Plate in Lawrence, Kansas, doesn’t believe in seedless watermelon. “I believe the seeds are very much a part of the Americana of watermelon,” he says. “The seedless varieties don’t appeal to me as much; I think that’s part of the charm of them – you have to pick them out.” At Merchants, Peterson, as with the rest of his produce, use every part of the watermelon. A cold appetizer, for instance, features heirloom watermelon atop labneh cream cheese sprinkled with everything-bagel seasoning for crunch and garnished with thinly sliced pickled watermelon rind. For dessert, try the watermelon parfait, with layers of sorghum sour cream, watermelon and sunflower-seed brittle. “It’s a nice, light, easy-to-execute and visually stunning dessert,” Peterson says. At Sunday brunch, you’ll find watermelon salad topped with furikake with a Kansas twist: sunflower seeds instead of sesame seeds. “It’s peak of the summer, hot weather – everybody likes watermelon [then],” he says.
Merchants Pub & Plate, 746 Massachusetts St., Lawrence, Kansas, 785.843.4111, merchantsonmass.com
CHEF’S TIP: “There are lots of different kinds of watermelon out there – yellow flesh, white flesh – so don’t be afraid to try different ones and see what they can do.” –TK Peterson, executive chef, Merchants Pub & Plate
Chaumette Vineyards & Winery
At Chaumette Vineyards & Winery in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, executive chef Rob Beasley thinks watermelon is a perfect pairing for summer tomatoes. “We get about 20 different varieties of heirloom tomatoes, and some of them are really acidic,” he says and also notes the complimentary textures. “The sweetness of [watermelon] works great with tomatoes to cut through some of the acid; they need some sweetness to balance it out, and I love the contrast.” Last month, Beasley compressed Sugar Baby watermelon (a seedless variety) in a sous vide for a wine dinner to increase the intensity of the flavor before flash-grilling it with thick, aged balsamic for a salad of shaved La Quercia prosciutto, roasted Marcona almonds, peppery watercress, Feta from nearby Baetje Farms and an aged balsamic reduction. This summer, look for watermelon sorbet, grilled watermelon, more salads and even pickled watermelon rinds on antipasto plates. “Last year, when tomatoes came in season, we compressed watermelon with a little bit of mint and basil and a touch of really nice Spanish olive oil, and it was wonderful,” he says. “It was like eating the best candy you’ve every hand.”
Chaumette Vineyards & Winery, 24345 State Route WW, Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, 573.747.1000, chaumette.com
Katie’s Pizza & Pasta Osteria
Katie’s Pizza & Pasta Osteria has been serving watermelon salad and fresh-pressed watermelon-juice cocktails for 10 years, says co-owner Katie Collier, who opened a second location in Town and Country, Missouri, last year. The salad features a bed of watermelon “steak” topped with pea shoots, watercress, ricotta salata, Kalamata olives, basil, mint, fresh herbs and balsamic. “All those salty things with that sweet, sweet watermelon kind of pull out even more sweetness,” Collier says. “It’s so refreshing.” Behind the bar, watermelon juice is fresh-pressed and either paired with vodka or Prosecco, depending on your preference. “The watermelon juice is just so flavorful that it doesn’t need to be any fancier than that; it’s so good on its own,” Collier says. Look for the popular watermelon salad in Collier’s Vero Pizza & Pasta meal kits this summer, too, featuring a seedless baby watermelon, ricotta salata, balsamic and all the greens and herbs you need to make it at home. “We like doing cool ingredients in the meal kits, showing a different way to prepare it, and teaching people to cook really easy, beautiful recipes at home,” she says.
Katie’s Pizza & Pasta Osteria, multiple locations, katiespizzaandpasta.com