Chef Rebecca Peizer
The Culinary Institute of America
St. Helena, Calif.
Watermelon may now be more widely available throughout the year, but its popularity soars as spring turns into summer. Chef Rebecca Peizer cubes the watermelon’s bright red flesh and pickles the rind to create this no-waste salad recipe with Mexican flavors.
1 cup pickled watermelon rind, finely diced (recipe follows)
1 tbsp. cumin seeds, toasted
4 tbsp. avocado oil
2 tbsp. lime juice
Salt, to taste
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
1 mini red seedless watermelon, peeled and cut into 1-in. cubes
1 cup watercress
2 poblano chilies, charred, peeled and diced
3 tbsp. chopped cilantro
4 tbsp. pepitas, toasted
¼ cup crumbled cotija cheese
Pickled watermelon rind
4 cups water
1 tbsp. coarse salt
2 cups peeled watermelon rind (leave a thin layer of pink), cut into pieces
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
4 whole cloves
1/2 tsp. pickling spice
1 long slice fresh gingerroot
1/4 tsp. celery seeds
1 allspice berry
1. Prepare pickled watermelon rind at least a day in advance: In large pot, bring water and salt to boil over medium-high heat. Add rind pieces and boil until tender, about 5 minutes. Strain. Transfer rinds to large metal bowl.
2. In medium saucepan, combine sugar and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer for 15 minutes, until slightly reduced. Pour mixture over watermelon rinds in bowl. Place plate over top to keep rinds submerged in liquid. Cover and refrigerate for 1 day.
3. Prepare dressing: In large bowl, whisk cumin, oil, lime juice, salt and pepper until well blended; set aside.
4. Add watermelon, watercress, poblanos and cilantro to dressing in bowl; toss gently to mix.
5. For service, arrange salad on plates; garnish with pickled watermelon rind, toasted pepitas and cotija cheese.