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Turning watermelon into a mouthwatering meal

Mouthwatering watermelon bites. (ABC7)

A juicy watermelon is the perfect refresher on a hot summer day, but those sugary bites go far beyond the slice. From salad, soup, salsa to spritzers – cookbook author Jonathan Bardzik returned with sweet and savory watermelon dishes.

Watermelon and arugula salad with blue cheese vinaigrette

Serves 6

Sweet watermelon, bright peppery arugula and creamy, funky bleu cheese balance perfectly in this refreshing, thirst-quenching salad that looks as beautiful as it tastes.

Ingredients:

6 cups watermelon cut in 1” cubes

2 cups baby arugula, loosely packed

1 shallot, minced

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1 tsp honey

2/3 cups olive oil – the good stuff!

1 cup chilled, crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

Directions:

Toss together watermelon and arugula in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together shallot, vinegar and honey.

While whisking, drizzle oil into vinegar mixture. This will form a creamy emulsion.

Stir crumbles of Gorgonzola into vinaigrette until creamy and taste with a cube of watermelon.

Season to taste with additional salt, pepper, vinegar or oil and lightly dress watermelon and arugula.

Tip: If making this ahead, keep the watermelon separate. It will release water, which will dilute your dressing and wilt the arugula. Combine the arugula and watermelon and dress right before serving.

Watermelon, Thai basil spritzer

Makes 3-4 cups syrup

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

2 cups Thai basil stems and leaves, loosely packed

1/2 medium watermelon

1 lemon, juiced

1 litre bottle club soda or seltzer

Directions:

Stir together sugar and water in a 3 quart saucepan, over medium high heat. Bring to a simmer and stir until sugar is dissolved.

Remove from heat and add Thai basil to sugar syrup. Infuse for 15 minutes and drain solids.

Puree watermelon in a blender and strain through a fine mesh sieve.

Mix together watermelon juice, lemon juice and seltzer. Season to taste with Thai basil syrup, starting with 1/4 cup.

*Add Champagne or Cava in place of soda water for a summer brunch.

Watermelon gazpacho

Serves 6-8

Watermelon is a wonderful fruit but a terrible vegetable. Keep it summery sweet in this gazpacho. Salt brings out the tomato, and honey makes the watermelon pop.

Ingredients:

6 cups watermelon diced and separated

2 large tomatoes, diced, about 2 cups

1/2 red onion, diced

1/2 tsp lime zest

2 tbs lime juice

1/2 jalapeño seeded and minced

2 tbs basil, finely chopped

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tbs honey

Directions:

Mix together 4 cups of the diced watermelon with the tomato, and onion. Add lime zest and juice, jalapeño and basil. Stir together.

Press remaining 2 cups of watermelon through a food mill or puree in a food processor and strain through a fine sieve to remove solids.

Add watermelon juice, and vinegar and honey to soup. Season to taste with salt, pepper and additional honey, if needed.

If you make this soup ahead of time, check the seasoning again before serving. The watermelon and tomatoes will release more moisture and dilute the salt, vinegar and honey.

Watermelon salsa with fish tacos

Directions:

Leave the watermelon juice out of the gazpacho recipe and pile wheat flour tortillas with grilled or pan-fried fish, salsa and fresh cilantro.

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