Watermelon and Cantaloupe Salad with Mint Vinaigrette

It’s the 4th of July in America and what does that mean? It means a lot of outdoor barbecues, being with friends and family, and fireworks. Being in the middle of summer, standing outdoors in the heat can be very excruciating. One can cool off by taking a dip in the water, shoot water guns at each other, or sit in the shade. However, that only cools the outside, what if you want to cool your insides? That’s where watermelon comes in.

Watermelon has been the staple of summer barbecue since I don’t know when. They are refreshing and cool, but can be a little boring. With this recipe, you can put a creative spin on an otherwise common entry.

I learned of this recipe from watching Giada De Laurentiiis on the Food Network and it’s really easy to make. I’ve made this a few times and people seem to like it.

2 cups watermelon balls, from about half a watermelon
2 cups cantaloupe balls, from about 1 cantaloupe

Max’s version of the simple syrup
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
1 Tbsp amaretto (almond extract or almond liquor)
about 8 mint leaves

1 bunch fresh mint, chopped,
¼ cup lemon juice, from about 1 lemon
¼ cup of above simple syrup

I got a mini seedless watermelon for this because I couldn’t find the regular sized one. Leave it to me to go last minute shopping when the grocery store was almost empty for the holiday weekend. The amaretto of choice here is Disaronno.

I start with making the syrup because it needs to be boiled, then cooled. This part would take the longest time. The original recipe had only sugar and water. But I wanted the mint leaves in here so that the syrup would be infused with the mint flavor. I added the amaretto here because this salad needed to be kid friendly. The original recipe said to add it in the vinaigrette directly. I feel the alcohol taste would linger so I wanted to boil that away while leaving the almond taste.

Bring the sugar, water, amaretto and mint to a boil over medium heat. The sugar should have dissolved at this point and the liquid will turn into a light green-amber color. Bring back down to a simmer for about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and remove the mint leaves and discard. Cool down.

The melons are ready to be balled. The next steps will show how to get an almost perfect ball using a melon baller. If you want to save time, you can skip the follow steps and just cube these melons.

Using the largest size of the baller, press the scoop side down directly into flesh.

While deep in the flesh, rotate the baller so the scoop is facing up (from the inside) Rotate the baller a few times to smooth out the sides of the melon.

Scoop it up

Tada! Melon ball!

Do this until you get to the rind. You’ll have a nice serving bowl. Repeat this with the cantaloupe. You might find that as you remove the ball shapes, you’ll get some left over pieces. What I did was to scoop that out with a regular spoon and smooth out a layer before moving on to balling the rest of the melon.

Now on to making the vinaigrette. Here, I have the rest of the mint leaves, lemon juice, and amaretto-mint infused simple syrup.

Blend it together.

In a large mixing bowl, pour it over the melon balls and toss until well distributed.

Transfer it to the watermelon bowls. Nice presentation!

Original recipe at http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/watermelon-and-cantaloupe-salad-with-mint-vinaigrette-recipe/index.html

After Note: Once the melon has been eaten, there is liquid leftover in the bowl. It consist of some of the vinaigrette and some of the juice from the watermelon and cantaloupe. My brother in law added a little Grey Goose vodka to it and made a unique cocktail out of it. Try it out?

– Max


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