We know summer is here when we hear the call of the watermelon man going around the neighborhood.
Although no longer utilizing a horse and driver, the watermelon man’s truck making its rounds joins hundreds of watermelon stands and colleagues in Israel’s open markets each summer, urging us to enjoy this juicy treat — the very best such treat to be had on a sweltering summer day.
Since the investment in refrigerator space, not to mention cost, is so great, watermelon selection is a vital skill. In Israel, it’s easy to select a watermelon. We ask the seller to cut out a wedge to taste!
In other locales, however, you may probably have to learn to pick a good one. Quality watermelon will be firm, evenly shaped, heavy for its size and have a deep-pitched tone when slapped with an open palm.
A high-pitched tone indicates a green or under-ripe product. A dull sound or dead thud indicates an over-ripe melon. A deep-pitched tone indicates the melon is ripe. Slap a number of melons, one after the other, and you will be able to hear the differences in tone.
Uncut watermelons keep at room temperature for up to two weeks. Store cut watermelons in the refrigerator. Cover cut surfaces loosely with plastic wrap.
I still remember the watermelon bowl my sister-in-law made for a party for me more than 40 years ago; I was so impressed. Here is how to do it: Cut off lengthwise the top third of the watermelon (save the top for another purpose).
With ball cutter, cut balls from larger section of watermelon. Remove seeds from balls and refrigerate. Remove remaining pulp from melon to make a basket. Drain, and if necessary, cut thin slice from bottom so shell will stand upright. Refrigerate.
Watermelon Fire and Ice Salsa
3 cups chopped watermelon
1⁄2 cup chopped green bell peppers
2 Tbsps. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp. chopped green onion
1-2 Tbsps. chopped Jalapeno peppers (to taste)
1⁄2 tsp. granulated garlic
salt to taste
Combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour. Serve as a relish.
Watermelon-Feta Cheese Salad
4 cups watermelon, cut into cubes
2 firm cucumbers, sliced
3 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. olive oil
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Combine cubed watermelon and cucumber slices in a serving bowl. Sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese.
Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil; add salt and pepper to taste.
(Dairy or Parve)
11⁄2 cups sifted flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
1⁄8 tsp. cinnamon
6 Tbsps. butter or margarine, room temperature
2⁄3 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1⁄2 cup milk or parve milk substitute
1⁄2 cup watermelon juice
1⁄2 cup watermelon pulp
1⁄2 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 350˚. Line muffin tin with paper liners for easy removal.
Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon into a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar; add eggs. Beat in milk, juice, watermelon pulp and raisins. Add wet mixture to dry ingredients; blend just to incorporate.
Fill greased muffin cups 2⁄3 full. Bake for 25 minutes.
Transfer to wire rack and cool.
Makes 1 dozen muffins.
Rivka Tal is a former Minnesotan who has lived in Jerusalem for the past 45 years. She is a food writer and translator. Email her at: [email protected] .