One of my dearest friends loves all things watermelon. It's always a challenge to think of new ways to serve her favorite melon. Watermelon is a delicious, fresh ingredient that shouldn't be restricted to just fruit platters and buffet tables. Its versatility is astounding. Botanically, a watermelon is a fruit — a ripened ovary of a seed plant and its contents, much like a pepper, pumpkin or tomato.
However, watermelon also is related to the cucurbitaceous plant family of gourds, like cucumber and squash. For this reason, it's also classified as a vegetable, or as it's sometimes called, a "fregetable."
Watermelon is a good source of vitamin C, thiamin and vitamin B6, vitamin A, magnesium and potassium. It contains no cholesterol and is very low in sodium. This rich red fruit is fat-free and has lots of lycopene, an antioxidant believed to reduce cancer and lower the risk of heart attack. Though there is sugar in watermelons, it is naturally diluted by the high levels of water in the fruit.
Today's watermelon varieties are larger, fleshier and sweeter, the seeds smaller and the rind thinner. Watermelon is perhaps the most refreshing, thirst-quenching fruit of all. It's a perfect snack to serve on hot and humid summer days when we require restoring our body with a lot of fluids.
When using watermelon in your recipes, think outside the rind. Try this retro dessert for Watermelon Pudding Pie. It's sweetened with watermelon juice and decorated with watermelon balls. It's as easy as pie!
WATERMELON PUDDING PIE
If you want to save time, purchase a pre-made cookie crumb crust and skip the first four ingredients needed to make a homemade one.
2 1/2 cups crumbled crisp gourmet cookies (such as Biscoff) from one (8.8-ounce) package
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 (7 1/2-pound) seedless watermelon
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon fresh juice (from 1 lemon)
1-2 drops red food coloring gel (optional)
2 cups heavy cream, divided
1 (8 ounce) container mascarpone cheese, divided
1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup powdered sugar, divided
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (to look like watermelon seeds), optional
1. If making your own pie crust, heavily coat a 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray; set aside. Place crumbled cookies, salt and granulated sugar in a food processor; process until finely ground, 10 to 15 seconds. Add melted butter; process until mixture is moist and clumps together easily, about 5 seconds. Press crumb mixture evenly on bottom and up sides of greased pie plate. Refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes.
2. Cut part of the watermelon into cubes to equal 3 cups (about 16 ounces). Cover remaining watermelon with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
3. Place cubed watermelon in a blender, and process until smooth, about 20 seconds. Pour through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a large measuring cup, pressing gently to squeeze out juice; discard solids. (You should have about 1 1/2 cups of watermelon juice.)
4. Stir together watermelon juice, cornstarch, granulated sugar and the salt in a small saucepan; let stand 5 minutes. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook, whisking often, until cornstarch dissolves, 5 to 6 minutes. Immediately remove watermelon mixture from heat. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice and (if desired) food coloring gel.
5. While watermelon mixture stands, beat 1 cup of the heavy cream and 1/4 cup of the mascarpone with an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form, about 50 seconds. Gradually add 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar, beating until stiff peaks form, about 10 seconds. Working in batches, gently fold watermelon mixture and the chocolate chips (if desired) into the whipped cream mixture until smooth and blended. Spoon watermelon mixture into prepared pie plate. Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.
6. Scoop out flesh of remaining watermelon with a sharp 1-inch melon baller, making about 10 (1 inch) balls. Cut watermelon balls in half, and place, cut side down, on a plate lined with paper towels; set aside.
7. In a large bowl, gently stir together remaining mascarpone cheese and 1/3 cup powdered sugar until just combined. Beat remaining 1 cup heavy cream in a medium bowl on medium speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold whipped cream into mascarpone mixture.
8. Dollop mascarpone-whipped cream topping on top of pie, leaving a 1-inch border. Place watermelon-ball halves, cut side down, along edges of whipped cream topping. Serve immediately.