I grew up spitting seeds. It was what you did while sitting on the porch with a thick, pie wedge of watermelon; a rosy stain on your face and running in streams down your arms.
My Papa grew the big oval melons with green zig-zag stripes and a creamy yellow underbelly. We’d go out to the garden – which to a little kid seemed to be the size of forever – where he’d thump, roll over and plug to uncover a perfectly ripe melon. It all seemed like some sort of alchemy to a small girl, not that I would have even known the word “alchemy” back then.
Picking an utterly impeccable watermelon is part experimentation and part observation.
Ok, I still thump my melons for that deep, solid yet hollow sound, and usually do pretty well.
Science says that’s not your most reliable way. Plugging – where you take a core sample – probably won’t happen in most markets. And, while you could do that in your private patch, it can lead to an introduction of unwanted bacteria and bugs.
The most reliable way to tell if a watermelon is going to be everything a kid dreams is a simple practice.
The melon should be heavy for its size. After all, you want it full of juicy goodness. Next, check the stem. If it’s started to wither you’re getting there. Finally, look at the underside of the watermelon. It should have a creamy yellow spot which indicates it’s been left in the field to ripen. I certainly haven’t achieved the status of a watermelon alchemist, but these steps are pretty good indicators.
Other than out-of-hand, one of my favorite ways to serve watermelon is with feta cheese and mint with a good amount of cracked pepper. You really don’t need a recipe for this one. Cut watermelon into two inch-ish chunks and toss onto a platter, scatter feta and torn mint leaves over the melon, then crack pepper on top to finish.
Several years ago, my darling man who doesn’t do a lot of cooking, but is really swell in the clean-up department, took up the habit of fixing brunch on Mother’s Day. This is a total treat – great food, no hurry at an overly busy restaurant, and did I mention great food?
Much research and effort goes into every detail, including a theme and typed up menu! He and his cooking cohorts always dine on breakfast beers and lil’ smokies, while the girls sip on the likes of a cherry spritzer (made even better with a splash of vodka) and nibble on zucchini pancakes slathered with crème fraiche.
Call me sentimental, I’ve saved all of the recipes. Some have been made several times over and others merely get a glance and a fond remembrance.
One menu item that’s been a repeat was Good Housekeeping’s Crustless Tomato-Ricotta Pie. It’s somewhere between a pizza, a quiche and a heavenly lasagna. I love the original recipe, as well as some changes that I’ve made throughout the years.
Tomato Pie with Fresh Herbs
1 15 oz. container part-skim ricotta cheese
4 large eggs
¼ cup Romano, Parmesan or Gruyere cheese
¼ cup milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon each salt and fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon dried basil
½ cup each fresh cilantro and mint leaves, chopped
1 lb ripe Roma tomatoes, sliced
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In large bowl, whisk ricotta, eggs, cheese, salt and pepper until blended.
In measuring cup, stir milk and cornstarch until smooth; whisk into cheese mixture. Stir in garlic, basil, cilantro and mint.
Pour mixture into an oiled 10-inch skillet with oven-safe handle. Arrange tomatoes on top, overlapping slices. Bake pie 35 to 40 minutes or until lightly browned, the center is puffed and the edges are set. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
This pie begs to be mixed up; different cheese or combinations of herbs. Use all fresh herbs when available, or call upon what’s in the pantry in a pinch. Enjoy!
National Ketchup (catsup) day was on June 5th, and I missed it! “Arg,” said the girl who loves ketchup and especially Portland Ketchup.
I first had this captivating tomato based elixir a few years ago. We (my man and I) had gone to Kennedy School McMenamins for brunch on Mother’s Day – sans our kids – where were they anyway? It was a grand afternoon sitting on their umbrella and plant inhabited courtyard.Continue reading →