Summer hit Los Angeles this year with a few weeks of unforgiving heat. After the warm pleasant days and cool nights of June and July, the dry, suffocating air of late August made it hard to want to do much of anything. Barely adjusted to the year long moderate temperatures of the West Coast, the sunny skies of Los Angeles made it hard to think fall is fast approaching.
Hanging onto the last bits of summer, the farmer’s market recently brought beautiful and quite refreshing watermelons, a cool snack for these final summer days. With the summer heat as inspiration, I decided to experiment with a few watermelon recipes to try and cool down.
Watermelon, smoked buffalo mozzarella cheese, heirloom tomato, and shaved fennel salad
This is a simple salad that is perfect to throw together for dinner for two or as an easy starter for a dinner party. I chose a smoked buffalo mozzarella that I picked up at Bay Cities Deli in Santa Monica, because I like the contrast of the hearty cheese to the sweet watermelon, but a nice tangy blue cheese or ricotta insalata would pair nicely with this salad as well.
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ tsp fluer de sel
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
½ cup watermelon, cut off the rind and cut into ¼ inch cubes
½ cup heirloom tomatoes cut into ¼ inch cubes
½ cup smoked buffalo mozzarella cheese cut into ¼ inch cubes
½ cup fennel, sliced paper thin
¼ cup fennel tops, lightly chopped
¼ cup red onion, sliced paper thin
3 cups mixed salad greens
1. Use a microplane to zest lemon into a large bowl.
2. Cut lemon in half and squeeze juice into bowl.
3. Add salt, pepper, and olive oil to the bowl and whisk around to combine.
4. Add watermelon, tomatoes, cheese, fennel, fennel tops, and red onion and toss.
5. Add salad greens and toss until greens are covered in dressing.
Watermelon Panna Cotta with Watermelon and Mango Spicy Fruit Salsa
This is an easy recipe that can be made a day or two ahead of time to allow the flavor to really develop. The recipe uses both fresh and cooked watermelon juices, giving the panna cotta a well rounded flavor. For this recipe you need to puree watermelon flesh and strain this through a coffee filter and a sieve (see picture). This juice is then reduced for a more concentrated flavor. The salsa that goes with it is a little play on the Mexican fruit stands I have become so accustom to in Los Angeles. This spicy fruit is cooled down by the creamy panna cotta, making for a nice ending to a meal.
For the Panna Cotta:
6 cups watermelon juice (puree watermelon flesh, strain through coffee filter and sieve)
1/3 cup watermelon juice
1 ½ tsp powdered gelatin
2 ¾ cup heavy cream
½ cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. In a heavy-bottomed, medium sauce pot, reduce the 6 cups of watermelon juice to 1 cup of liquid over medium-high heat. Pour into bowl and set aside.
2. Pour the 1/3 cup watermelon juice into a medium size bowl. Whisk the gelatin into the cool watermelon juice.
3. Bring the heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract up to a boil in a medium saucepot and remove from heat.
4. Add a small amount of hot cream to the watermelon juice/gelatin mixture and whisk to combine. Add the rest of the cream to this mixture and whisk together until completely combined.
5. Whisk the reduced 1 cup of watermelon juice into the cream mixture.
6.Let mixture sit until cool, stirring every 15 minutes to allow to completely combine. Once cool, pour into molds and place in the refrigerator.
I pour my panna cotta into silicone molds for easy removal. Paper or plastic cups are also easy to use; just make sure to spray them with non flavored cooking spray so the panna cotta comes out cleanly.
For the Salsa:
½ cup watermelon cut into 1/8 inch cubes
½ cup mango cut into 1/8 cubes
2 tsp Cholula Chili Lime Seasoning
¼ cup lime juice
1. Add the watermelon and mango in a bowl. Toss with a spices and lime juice.
To serve: Un-mold panna cotta. Place salsa on top of or on the side of panna cotta.
Watermelon Pate de Fruit
Pate de Fruit can be extremely difficult to make, especially when using fresh fruit purees because the sugar content for each piece of fruit is different. It is this sugar content that determines that amount of pectin necessary to create a smooth yet stable but not too gummy pate de fruit. For this recipe, I tried using both fresh watermelon puree which yielded little flavor and a reduced watermelon puree which produced a much better product.
500 g watermelon puree
35 g sugar
6 g pectin
225 g sugar
75 g glucose
5 g citric acid
*Pectin, glucose, and citric acid can be found at specialty cooking and baked goods shops. Kitchenkrafts.com also has selection of products as well as many other internet suppliers.
1. Reduce the watermelon puree by half so that you have 250 g of watermelon puree. Pour into a bowl and set aside.
2. Mix together the 35g of sugar and pectin.
3. Add the reduced watermelon puree to a heavy bottom pot and whisk in the 225 g of sugar and glucose. Over a medium flame, bring to a rapid boil, whisking constantly to avoid browning the puree.
4. Slowly rain the sugar/pectin mixture into the pot, whisking the mixture so that the pectin does not clump up.
5. Whisking the entire time, bring the mixture to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. The mixture will thicken and will be done when a small amount on a cold plate sets up and its only slight sticky to the touch.
6. Take off the heat and whisk in the citric acid.
7. Pour the mixture out onto a sheet tray lined with either a silpat or plastic wrap. Allow to cool.
8. Once cool, cut the pate de fruit in any shape you desire and roll in sugar. Only roll what you will be using immediately and wrap the remaning in plastic.