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Watermelon recipes add refreshing flavor to Fourth of July celebrations

When I was growing up, the Fourth of July was one of my favorite holidays. I loved everything about the Fourth — waking up early to the sound of firecrackers in the days leading up to the big day...

Watermelon Firecrackers are made with watermelon juice, rum, lime juice and a splash of soda. The glasses are rimmed with sugar and blueberries are served with it.Dave Wallis / The Forum
Watermelon Firecrackers are made with watermelon juice, rum, lime juice and a splash of soda. The glasses are rimmed with sugar and blueberries are served with it.Dave Wallis / The Forum
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When I was growing up, the Fourth of July was one of my favorite holidays. I loved everything about the Fourth – waking up early to the sound of firecrackers in the days leading up to the big day, the small-town parades and turtle races, barbecues with lake friends and, of course, the fireworks.

I also loved the Fourth of July because it signaled the arrival of one of my all-time favorite foods, watermelon. With its high water content (about 92 percent), watermelon has always been regarded as a great, natural way to cool down and stay hydrated during the dog days of summer.

In recent years, studies have shown that watermelon provides much more than just liquid sustenance; in fact, it is now considered a superfood in the world of nutrition. Rich in vitamins A, B6 and C, watermelon is also packed with lycopene (great for cardiovascular health), antioxidants and amino acids. In other words, this is a fruit we should be enjoying every single day, especially when it’s in season.

While one of my favorite ways to enjoy watermelon is when it’s sliced into large half-moon slices, there are myriad ways to savor this amazing fruit. Gio loves to use a melon-baller to create perfectly round balls, I like my watermelon cubed in salads, and Tony likes his any which way he gets it.

Recently, I’ve even taken to making fresh watermelon juice, which is great first thing in the morning, or with “enhancements” at cocktail hour. While this large fruit may seem intimidating to cut, it is easy to master with a little practice. Simply make sure to use a long, sharp knife and be deliberate with your actions. Those two factors are enough to help you cut the melon into halves, quarters, half-moon slices and wedges, which was the only way I sliced watermelon until I learned a handy trick a few years ago on how to cube a watermelon.

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To start, I place a large cutting board inside a sheet pan with raised sides, which helps prevent the juice from spilling all over the counter. Then, I slice the watermelon in half and then into quarters. Next, I make vertical cuts from the top of each quarter wedge, slicing all the way down to the rind, but not through it.

Then, along one side of the wedge, I cut from side to side, slicing all the way through, spacing the slices at least half an inch apart, until I reach the rind. I repeat these steps on the other side of the wedge, and then I run my knife through all the cuts one more time before turning the wedge upside down onto the cutting board. At this point, most of the cubes will tumble out, and it is easy to extract any that remain inside the wedge.

To make watermelon juice, I fill my blender with cubes of watermelon and then puree until it is all liquid. Next – and this step is crucial – I strain the juice through a fine mesh strainer and refrigerate until ready to use.

When buying a watermelon that is precut, look for ones with the deepest color. If purchasing a whole watermelon, it should be heavy when fully ripe, with a smooth rind and yellowish bottom-spot. If the bottom-spot is white or green, the fruit is not ready. We’re sharing two of our family’s favorite watermelon recipes with you today, and we wish you a safe, happy and delicious Fourth of July!

Bacon Bleu Cheese Watermelon Salad

Ingredients:

1 whole watermelon, cut into ½-inch cubes (about 6 cups)

2 to 3 shallots, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons fresh mint, roughly chopped

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2 tablespoons fresh basil, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt

1 pound bacon, cooked and diced into ½-inch pieces

4 ounces crumbled bleu cheese or gorgonzola

1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

1/3 cup roasted and salted sunflower seeds

2 to 3 tablespoons balsamic reduction

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Directions:

To make the balsamic reduction, cook ¼ cup balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over high heat until boiling; reduce heat to low and simmer gently until the vinegar has been reduced by half and a syrupy consistency is achieved, about 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the watermelon, sliced shallots, mint, basil, olive oil and salt; toss lightly to combine. Add bacon and bleu cheese and gently toss again until mixed. Transfer to a serving bowl or platter. Drizzle top with balsamic reduction and sprinkle with toasted almonds and sunflower seeds.

Red White and Blue Watermelon Cocktail

Ingredients:

4 cups cubed watermelon (about 2 cups strained juice)

4 ounces white rum

2 ounces vodka

1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon white sugar

Club soda, for topping off

Sugar and fresh blueberries, to garnish

Directions:

Prepare the garnish in advance: Fill a small plate with sugar; dip the rim of each cocktail glass in the watermelon juice and then the sugar, to line the rim. Fill toothpicks with the fresh blueberries.

Place cubed watermelon in blender and puree until fruit is all liquid. Strain juice through a fine-mesh strainer into a pitcher and discard any pulp. Add rum, vodka, lime juice and sugar and stir until combined; for a kiddie mocktail, simply omit the liquors. Refrigerate mix for up to 24 hours before serving.

To serve, fill sugar-rimmed cocktail glasses with ice, then add watermelon mixture until glass is three-fourths full. Top with club soda, garnish with blueberry skewers and enjoy.

“Home With the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 11-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at dine@sarellos.com. All previous recipes can be found at http:// thelostitalian.areavoices.com.

Related Topics: RECIPESFOOD
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