How to Pick a Watermelon, Plus One Fantastic Dessert (just in case yours is a dud!)
During Louisiana summers, my body mass-to-watermelon ratio can tip the scales indecently. Don't get me wrong, I crave the stuff all year long, but just like crawfish or king cake, this New Orleans lady understands that if it's not the season, it ain't worth it. When you eat as much watermelon as I do, the last thing you want to do is eat a lot of bad watermelon. While most people are familiar with the 'thump' method (you know what I'm talking about. Thump the watermelon to find the one that's most hollow. We've all done it.), there's actually a few ways to tell if your watermelon is worth the effort. This infographic from Reddit is just about as good as illustration as this can get!
But let's say you took at the right steps. You thumped. You pulled out your phone in the grocery store and looked at this chart. You survived the weird looks other customers shot your way and hoisted this massive melon into your cart, then onto the conveyer belt, then into you car, then into your kitchen, and... it's just... lackluster. Well, shoot.
That's when I like to make Gelo di Melone, or Sicilian Watermelon pudding. No, really, it's a thing. The lovechild of Jell-o and panna cotta, Gelo di Melone is fruit juice thickened until jiggly using sugar and cornstarch, Light, refreshing, and every bit as delicious as you'd want that watermelon to be, this dessert can also make fast use of all that leftover watermelon that may have gotten mealy in the fridge.. Served with chopped green pistachios to mimic the green rind and shaved dark chocolate to stand in as the seeds, you can get as cute as you want when plating this 'wait, what is this again???' dessert.
The variation in this dessert comes from how juicy your watermelon is. I've sometimes needed only 4 cups of watermelon cubes, and sometimes I'll need 6 or 7 cups. Heck, sometimes I've used the juice that collects at the bottom of the container. Just work with what you've got, boo thang.
Happy eating, y'all :)
Gelo di Melone
6-8 cups of watermelon cubes, seeds removed
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Chopped pistachios and shaved dark chocolate for garnish
In a blender, pulse the watermelon cubes until smooth. Pour through a fine strainer, pressing with a spatula or your hand to extract 4 cups of juice. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt. Add a 1/2 cup of watermelon juice and whisk until smooth.
Pour remaining watermelon juice into a 2 quart saucepan. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium if necessary, and slowly whisk in the sugar mixture. Continue to simmer, whisking constantly, for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, then stir in the lemon juice and vanilla. Allow to cool for five minutes before pouring into a round glass container or small bowls. Let cool for 15 minutes, then loosely cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours.
Garnish with pistachios and dark chocolate just before serving. Pudding will keep in the fridge for up to 2 days.