Cook in the Moment: Watermelon Granita with Mint and Lime

Watermelon Granita with Mint and Lime (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

Recently, I took on a project for a client needing recipes and photography centered around the Cajun cuisine of Louisiana. Today, I live in Colorado, but I was born and raised in Arkansas, and made many trips through New Orleans en route to our family beach vacations on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. As a child, I was spellbound by New Orleans. Growing up in the bible belt, I found the culture of New Orleans so different from my own. I sometimes felt like the black sheep of my family, with a tendency to be moody and rebellious. Sarcastic humor was (and still is) my favorite coping mechanism. I appreciated the way New Orleanians embraced both the light and the dark sides of life with their jazz funerals, magical thinking, and revelrous parades. Though they would probably be described as “characters,” I loved Louisiana because the people seemed so real – honest, straightforward, and true to themselves. Years have gone by since my childhood visits to New Orleans, and we’ve both been through a lot. While the city recovered from Hurricane Katrina, I recovered from leukemia. I like to think the ability to laugh when things couldn’t get any worse is what got each of us through.

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10 Ways Tuesday: Watermelon

Watermelon and Tomato Salad with Red Onion, Basil and Manchego (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

I’ve got creative recipes for cooking with watermelon during summer:

1.  Watermelon and Tomato Salad

Watermelon and tomato make for a shockingly good combination. Tomatoes have a meaty acidity that balances sweet and crisp slices of watermelon. I like to cut the watermelon into tomato-like shapes and toss it with yellow cherry tomatoes, red onions, and basil. Plenty of red wine vinegar, olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper balance the sweet and fruity flavors. Instead of the traditional feta, I switch it up with shavings of semi-soft, nutty sheep’s milk cheese- like Manchego.

2.  Pickled Watermelon and Watermelon Rind

David Chang is an advocate for pickling. In the Momofuku cookbook, he writes, Pickling is practical and doesn’t need to be complicated…Pickling can be as easy as making a brine, pouring it over chopped vegetables packed into a container, and waiting the right amount of time to eat them.” Chang includes recipes for both pickled watermelon rind and a quick pickle for the pink watermelon flesh. The pickles can be served on a pickle plate with other pickled veg or incorporated into a meal. At Momofuku, watermelon pickles are served with noodle bowls and braised meat, or in a frisée salad with bacon and a poached egg.

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Ingredient of the Week: Watermelon

Watermelon (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

I grew up in the soupy heat of southern summers, and though each year takes me farther away from my childhood in Arkansas, biting into a slice of ice-cold, crisp and sweet watermelon brings me right back home. Watermelon is a simple, cheerful fruit, a symbol of the height of summer. A large oblong watermelon, with striped green rind and shockingly pink flesh, is reason enough to gather with friends in an effort to cool down on a breezeless summer day. It’s the simplest, most universal kind of entertaining. All you really need is a knife to divvy up the fruit and you can feed a crowd of hot, thirsty people. Watermelons come in a variety of sizes and shapes, from mini-round varieties weighing less than 5 pounds to huge oblong specimens up to 35 pounds. The rind is either solid green or striped light and dark green, with a flesh that ranges from hot pink to red, orange, or yellow. Seedless watermelons actually do have a few seeds, which tend to be softer, smaller, and edible. This week at la Domestique, you’ll find inspiration for cooking with all parts of the watermelon, from the flesh to the rind and even the seeds.

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