We recently received a call from the Auburn Journal (our local newspaper) asking if we'd like to participate in an upcoming series of food-related articles. The staff writer explained that the paper is experimenting with a new idea for the Food and Wine section on a monthly basis and is visiting local chefs to get "Cooking School 101" tips on some basic kitchen techniques. They asked if I would be interested in being the first in the series and if so, would I please give the readers tips about how to cut up a watermelon and perhaps share a recipe. Sure I would!
This was perfect timing because not only is it a great time of year for juicy watermelon, but, I was already scheduled to be in the kitchen working on prep for a wedding which included cutting fruit for platters. When Stephanie arrived for the interview I was ready with a huge watermelon and found quite a bit to say about the task at hand. As is the case due to space restraints, etc., not all of our interview was printed so I thought I would pass along the remaining tips we discussed.
First, I always choose a full size, seedless watermelon. There are the smaller more "individual size" watermelons on the market these days but the price is the same as the old-fashioned big guys so why not get more bang for your buck? Pick one that sounds hollow when patted firmly. Tool for the job: large chef's knife. Step 1: Stabilize your cutting board. I always lay a damp bar towel or damp paper towels under my cutting board before attempting any cutting task. This stops the board from moving around on you which can be dangerous. Step 2: Stabilize your melon. Cut both ends off the melon and then stand it up vertically on your board. The slippery melon is now much more secure and ready for cutting. Step 3: Place one hand on top of melon and run your knife lengthwise down the melon following the curve of the fruit removing the rind in thick strips. Step 3: Continue turning the melon slightly in a clockwise motion taking off strips of rind as you go until you are left with a whole, completely peeled, watermelon. Step 4: Cut triangular slices for fruit platter. Begin by cutting watermelon in half lengthwise. Set one half aside. Place first half on cutting board, flat side down. With your knife at an angle, cut the half lengthwise into thirds. Each third can then be cut into slices (which will be triangle shaped) and are ready for placing on fruit platter.
FYI...this is the same technique I use for peeling and cutting all melons and pineapple with slight variations due to seeds, core, etc.
Fruit Platter & Watermelon Peacock
The interview was a lot fun to do and gave us a different way to reach out to folks in our community. To wrap up the watermelon themed discussion, I shared with Auburn Journal readers our Watermelon-Tomato Gazpacho recipe. For events we typically serve this as a soup shot along with other hors d'oeuvres in cute little shot glasses but you could definitely use it as a first course.
Enjoy your new fruit prepping skills and let me know if they were a help in the kitchen!
Link to Auburn Journal article:
3 cups coarsely chopped tomatoes
3 cups cubed watermelon
1 Serrano chile
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup feta cheese
In a blender, puree tomatoes, watermelon and Serrano chile.
Pour in vinegar and olive oil; pulse until blended. Pour mixture into large bowl. Fold in minced onion, cucumber, dill and season with salt and pepper. Chill gazpacho, or serve it at room temperature. Garnish with feta and a sprig of dill. Serves 4-6 in soup bowls or approximately 40 shot glasses.