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Gordon Ramsey’s Shrimp, Feta and Watermelon Salad


Watermelon slices make the basis for a tasty salad.

Watermelon is beginning to come into season,and this salad from “Gordon Ramsey’s Healthy Appetite” (Sterling Epicure, $24.95) offers an easy way of layering four bold flavors together in one  salad.

Shrimp, Feta and Watermelon Salad

7 ounces shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
Pinch of cayenne
Sea salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
3 pounds ripe seedless watermelon
1 3/4 ounces wild arugula leaves, washed
4 ounces feta cheese
1 tablespoons toasted mixed seeds, such as pumpkin and sunflower seeds (optional)

Dressing:
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon superfine sugar
4 tablespoons olive oil

Marinate the shrimp by tossing them together with 1 tablespoon olive oil, a pinch of cayenne and some salt and pepper in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate in the refrigerator 10 to 15 minutes.

Cut the watermelon into wedges, then cut off the skin and slice the flesh thinly. Layer the watermelon slices on a large serving platter, interleaving them with arugula leaves. Crumble over the feta and grind over some black pepper.

Place a large skillet, preferably a nonstick one, over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Tip in the shrimp and pan-fry for about 2 minutes until they turn opaque, flipping them over after a minute or so. Transfer to a plate and let cool slightly while you make the dressing.

Whisk the lime juice, sugar and oil together and season to taste. Add the shrimp to the platter and sprinkle over the seeds, if using. Drizzle with the dressing and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

From “Gordon Ramsey’s Healthy Appetite”

 

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Refreshing Watermelon a Trendy Ingredient This Season


Watermelon with strawberries, cilantro pearls and black sesame sponge bread from the RK Group.

What’s not to love about watermelon, especially when it is in season and bursting with refreshing flavor? It’s perfect for a picnic or great alongside a plate of just-grilled meats.

This year, more and more local chefs are using watermelon in salads and entrêes in ways that go far beyond the norm. Chef John Brand of La Mansión del Rio and Ostra on the River Walk served slabs of watermelon alongside hamachi sashimi during a recent Culinaria luncheon at Becker Vineyards, while The Monterey served it in a salad with feta cheese, dried olive and heirloom tomatoes.

The great thing about most of these recipes is that you can make them at home, layering the ingredients mentioned to your taste. Think about a watermelon margarita with a touch of lime, tequila and just a hint of orange liqueur mixed with watermelon juice and ice to your taste.

At a recent fundraiser for HeartGift, five chefs from around the city made various dishes pairing watermelon with everything from jumbo shrimp cocktail with watermelon from Cabo Seafood to a watermelon pavé with cilantro pearls and black sesame sponge cake from the RK Group. Heather Nañez of Bohanan’s seared hamachi and topped with a watermelon salsa, while Patricia Wenckus of Auden’s Kitchen crisped up prosciutto, adding a little salty flavor that the fruit seems to love.

Damien Watel of Bistro Vatel offered up an elegant, easy salad, the recipe for which appears below.

Watermelon margaritas

HeartGift is a San Antonio charity that flies children with congenital heart defects from around the world here so that they can be operated on for free. The event raised $23,000. According to HeartGift executive director Cathy Siegel, “Our spring season of events offered guests an opportunity to participate in a series of fine dining adventures while providing the gift of life-saving heart surgery to a child from a country where treatment is unavailable or inaccessible. With the success of this series of events, we are now able to bring another child to San Antonio for heart surgery.”

For more on HeartGift, click here.

What do you like to do with watermelon? Add a cube or two to a vodka martini? Serve it with fried shrimp? Smoke it in your barbecue pit? (It has been done.) Post your favorite ideas below.

Damien Watel’s Watermelon, Tomato and Feta Salad

Watermelon cubes, to taste
Ripe tomatoes, cut into pieces similar in size to the watermelon, to taste

Damien Watel's Watermelon, Tomato and Feta Salad

Crumbled feta cheese, to taste
Olive oil, to taste
Rice wine vinegar, to taste
Basil or flat-leaf parsley, to taste
Salt, to taste (optional)

Mix watermelon and tomatoes. Sprinkle feta on top. Drizzle olive oil and a touch of rice wine vinegar. Garnish with some microgreen herbs, such as basil, or finely chopped basil or parsley, to taste. Salt, if desired.

Adapted from Damien Watel

 

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New Cookbook Addresses Problem of Acid Reflux


If you’re having problems with acid reflux, there is help. Doctors Jamie Koufman and Jordan Stern have come up with a new guide, “Dropping Acid: The Reflux Diet Cookbook & Cure” (BRIO Press, $29.95), which takes into account various types of reflux symptoms or conditions that range from heartburn to sleep apnea.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD, is no laughing matter. Nor is it something to ignore or simply feed antacids. “At present, reflux-related esophageal cancer (most common in white males) is one of the fastest growing cancers in the United States,” the authors write.

To get GERD under control can take a serious look at what you consume. Some of the foods that are notorious for causing reflux, the authors say, are chocolate, soda (with diet sodas having more acid than regular), deep-fried food, alcohol, fatty meat, cream sauces, anything with caffeine, citrus fruit and juices, and hot sauces.

I can say from personal experience that eliminating caffeine, except for an occasional bit of chocolate, has worked for me, but the causes will vary from person to person.

The cookbook portion was written with the help of French master chef Marc Bauer, who has created 75 recipes in the following categories: breakfast, salads, soups, entrées, hors d’oeuvres and snacks, and desserts. They all seem fairly easy to make, too, from one-pot stews to simple snacks. Just be careful of the carbohydrate counts, as many seem fairly high.

Here are two recipes to sample: Healthy One-Pot Chicken Blanquette and Watermelon and Ginger Granité.

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Keep Cool with Watermelon and Ginger Granité


Watermelon is irresistible, no matter the time of year. Use the juice with some ginger in this refreshing dessert.

Watermelon and Ginger Granité

1 cup water
½ cup honey
1 whole clove
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated fine
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon lemon zest, washed and grated fine
3 cups seedless watermelon juice (see note)

Bring the water, honey, clove, nutmeg, ginger, salt and lemon zest to a boil. Allow to cool, then strain.

Add the syrup to the watermelon juice.

Place the juice in a bowl that can be put in the freezer, and freeze 3 hours. Stir every 15 minutes with a sauce whisk or freeze overnight and grate with a regular fork.

Note: To get the juice, cut the melon in half, remove flesh and blend.

Makes 8 servings.

Approximate nutritional value per serving: 80 calories, .1 g protein, 23 g carbohydrate, .1 g fat

From “Dropping Acid: The Reflux Diet Cookbook & Cure” by Jamie Koufman and Jordan Stern with Marc Bauer

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Cotton’s Watermelon Gazpacho


Blend your watermelon when making this gazpacho.

This summertime soup from chef Jeffrey Paige of Cotton, a restaurant in Manchester, N.H., goes together quickly and is cooling enough to take the edge off the heat.

Cotton’s Watermelon Gazpacho

5 pounds red seedless watermelon
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1 cup finely diced red bell pepper
2 cups diced, peeled and seeded cucumber
1/2 jalapeño, seeds removed and finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
Kosher salt, to taste

Remove the rind from the watermelon and cut into 1-inch chunks. Purée in a food processor until fairly smooth. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the onion, pepper, cucumber, jalapeño, cilantro, parsley, vinegar and sugar. Stir to blend well. Season to taste with kosher salt. Refrigerate 4 hours before serving. Serve within 2 days of making.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

From “Cotton: The Cookbook” by Jeffrey Paige

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Griffin to Go: Making a Recipe Your Own


Watermelon Gazpacho

During most every cooking class I’ve ever taken, the teacher has at some point stressed the fact that recipes are not written in stone. They are guidelines for you to follow or change according to your tastes.

Don’t want to use chicken stock in an otherwise vegetable soup? Fine; use a vegetable stock you like instead.

Allergic to peanuts? Substitute something you can eat, such as almonds or cashews.

Just think about the substitution before you start and modify any other changes to suit the overall flavor of the dish.

I thought about this the other day when I went to make a recipe out of a new cookbook that friends had given me. It is titled “Cotton: The Cookbook” (Blue Tree, $14.95), and it features recipes from a restaurant in Manchester, N.H., that the couple had visited on their honeymoon.

They sang the praises of chef Jeffrey Paige’s crab cakes and the wild mushroom-port wine sauce they had sampled one evening. Both are in the cookbook and both will be tried when the weather gets a little cooler.

As for me, I jumped immediately to the recipe for Watermelon Gazpacho, a raw dish that seemed particularly easy to put together on a summer evening. I had most of the ingredients on hand, so I figured I’d dive right in. Anything with watermelon is always welcome on my table.

But I noticed almost immediately a few ingredients that just weren’t to my taste. One was sugar, which, to me, isn’ t needed if you have juicy, sweet watermelon. So, I eliminated it. Another was a substitution. Paige calls for red wine vinegar. I prefer the San Antonio method of using lime juice as an acid whenever possible. (I also left out the red bell pepper simply because I didn’t have any growing in the backyard or stashed in the fridge.)

So, here are are two variations on the same cold soup, an easy dish that’s sure to please, no matter which version you make:

Cotton’s Watermelon Gazpacho

John’s Watermelon Gazpacho

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John’s Watermelon Gazpacho


Watermelon Gazpacho

A friend who tasted this soup said it was as if someone had accidentally dropped pico de gallo in a sandia agua fresca. He meant that as a compliment. I agree.

John’s Watermelon Gazpacho

5 pounds red seedless watermelon, divided use
1/2 cup finely diced sweet onion, such as a Texas 1015
2 cups diced, peeled and seeded cucumber
1/2 jalapeño, seeds removed and finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Juice of 1-2 key limes, to taste
Kosher salt, to taste

Remove the rind from the watermelon and cut into 1-inch chunks. Purée two-thirds in a food processor until fairly smooth. Place the remaining watermelon in a large mixing bowl. Smash with a fork. Pour the puréed watermelon over the top. Stir in onion, cucumber, jalapeño, cilantro and parsley. Add juice of 1 key lime and kosher salt. Taste; adjust seasonings, adding more lime juice and salt as needed. Refrigerate 4 hours before serving. Serve within 2 days of making.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

From John Griffin, adapted from “Cotton: The Cookbook” by Jeffrey Paige

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Michael Flores Set to Pitch Watermelon


Chef Michael H. Flores is the new face for watermelon in Texas.

The San Antonio native was chosen by the Texas Watermelon Association to star in bilingual spots promoting the summertime favorite. The commercials will air from May through September and are being produced in partnership with the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Go Texan program.

“I love the Lone Star State and truly believe and understand why ‘buying Texas’ is so important,” Flores said. “I will create new recipes using Texas crops while showcasing them through various media outlets. I’ve been developing new recipes, market buying, planning a watermelon media tour across the state, tying in the sweet summer fruit to various Texas festivals and taping commercials. I can’t wait for my fellow Texans to see how Texas watermelons shine.”

The ads will air across the state in cities such as Dallas, Houston, Austin, El Paso, the Rio Grande Valley and Waco in addition to San Antonio.

Texas’ watermelon production ranks third in the nation and generates about $160 million annually.

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Cookbooks: Nothing bland about ‘The Spice Kitchen’


Layout 1“The Spice Kitchen,” ($29.95, Interlink Books) by Michal Haines, might be one of the most tempting cookbooks to be published this year.

The recipes sizzle with flavors that we think of as exotic, and indeed, spice expert Haines has included a glossary in “The Spice Kitchen” that is evocative reading all by itself.  She explains the difference between cassia and cinnamon, which are similar but the reddish cassia is more potent in flavor.  She describes the black limes originally from Southeast Asia, but also used in Middle Eastern cooking.  These limes have been boiled in salt water, then dried, and in the process develop a tangy flavor all their own.

Even a simple dish, such as North African Sunshine Chicken, a relatively fast meal to make, is loaded with spice, from the 18 cardamom seeds to the peppercorns, mace and cinnamon. At the end of the frying, orange blossom water is drizzled over the completed dish. No, not your everyday fried chicken recipe.

I might serve the Watermelon, Cumin Seed and Feta Salad as a first course. Pistachio seeds and arugula offer mild-and-sharp tastes to contrast with the more delicate watermelon.

From “mezze” (small tastes) to desserts, and even drinks, Haines doesn’t miss a chance to extend her spice knowledge to recipe enthusiasts. If you know an adventurous cook, this book would make them a fine Christmas or birthday gift.

North African Sunshine Chicken

MARINADE:
18 cardamom pods, crushed to remove seeds
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 mace blade
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 oranges

4 chicken thighs
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil for frying
2 tablespoons orange water

Using a mortar and pestle, grind the cardamom seeds with the garlic, salt, peppercorns, mace and cinnamon. Add a little orange juice to make a paste, then transfer to a bowl and add the rest of the juice and zest.

Add chicken to the paste, mixing well  so that all the meat is covered, then allowing to marinate at least 4 hours or overnight.

When it’s time to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place an oven-safe dish in the oven to heat. Heat grapeseed oil in a frying pan until very hot. Sear the chicken thighs for about 4 minutes on each side or until they are well browned.

Transfer the chicken to the hot dish and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the juices run clear when a knife is inserted close to the joint. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 3-5 minutes  to cool to an easy eating temperature. Pour the orange blossom water over the chicken and serve it with a simple salad.

Serves 2-4

From “The Spice Kitchen” by Michal Haines

[amazon-product]1566567548[/amazon-product]Watermelon, Cumin Seed and Feta Salad
1/2 large watermelon, rind cut off, seeded and cut into thin slices
1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced
2 teaspoons toasted cumin seeds
7 ounces dry sheep’s milk feta, finely sliced
1 bunch arugula
4 tablespoons toasted pistachio kernels
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together, gently, in a large bowl except for the oil and pepper, and reserving a few of the cumin seeds and pistachio kernels to sprinkle on top. Drizzle the oil over, then scatter over the remaining seeds and kernels along with some black pepper.

Serves 3-4

From “The Spice Kitchen,” by Michal Haines

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Watermelon Salad


WatermelonSummer may not begin officially for a couple of weeks, yet the rising thermometer has sent many of us in search of refreshing ways to cool off.

After all, no one wants to turn the oven on any more than is absolutely necessary. And no one wants to exert any extra effort, either.

To search for spectacular yet simple ways of fixing dishes for warm-weather meals, I often turn to one of the half-dozen or so raw food cookbooks (un-cookbooks?) I have collected.

That’s where I found an old-favorite, Watermelon Salad.

Yes, you can do things with watermelon beyond eating it with your choice of salt or sugar sprinkled on it.

To make this dish, found in Charlie Trotter and Roxanne Klein’s “Raw” (10 Speed Press), you combine it with lychees, which are now in the market along with watermelon. Balancing the sweetness of the fruit is a touch of freshly grated horseradish, a touch of savory microgreens, olive oil and pepper.

It is as beautiful on the plate as it is to eat.

For those not familiar with the raw food movement, it refers to those people who don’t eat foods heated over 118 degrees. That’s the temperature at which the natural enzymes in foods break down. It’s also the point at which food loses its healing powers, the followers of this diet attest.

There’s a growing raw food movement in San Antonio. For more information, click here.

Watermelon Salad

2 cups chopped red watermelon
4 slabs red watermelon, each 3-inches square and 1/2-inch thick
12 fresh lychees, peeled, pitted and cut into eighths
1 cup assorted microgreens, such as shiso, basil and chervil
4 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish
2 tablespoons cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
Celtic sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Using a high-speed blender, process the chopped watermelon until it is a medium-bodied liquid. Allow the juice to settle, about 10 minutes; a thick layer of froth will form at the top.

Place the watermelon squares on each of four plates with a single layer of lychee pieces, covering each square completely.

Arrange 1/4 of the microgreens on each slice. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the horseradish over the microgreens. Drizzle the olive oil around the plate and spoon some of the watermelon froth around the plate and over the greens. Sprinkle the remaining horseradish over the watermelon froth. Top with a little salt and pepper.

Wine notes: At first thought it would seem that the spicy horseradish would require a lot of attention, but in fact it is a delicate background flavor that melts into the rest of the dish. This wonderfully refreshing preparation must have a wine partner that has the same cleansing characteristics. Laurent-Perrier’s Brut Rosé Champagne has scents of fresh berries and yeastiness and an invigorating sparkle that enlivens the watermelon and lychees on the palate.

Serves 4.

Adapted from “Raw” by Charlie Trotter and Roxanne Klein.

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