SMOKED WATERMELON SALAD
Recipe courtesy of Chef Alex Sadowsky
Sponsor: National Watermelon Promotion Board
Smoked Watermelon “Ham”
- About 10 lb seedless watermelon
- ¼ cup BBQ rub
Pickled Watermelon Rind
- 8 cups watermelon rind, peeled, 1-in x 1-in pieces
- 6 cups water
- 1 cup canning salt
- 4 cups sugar
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 6 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tsp cloves
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
Tajin Candied Pepitas
- 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
- ¼ cup white sugar
- 2 tsp Tajin seasoning
- 1 cup red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice
- ¼ cup honey
- ¼ cup roasted garlic
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp white sugar
- 1 cup cilantro
- ½ cup jalapeño peppers, roasted and peeled
- 1 cup olive oil
- 10 oz Smoked Watermelon “Ham,” chunked
- 6 oz seedless cucumber, sliced ¼ in thick
- 1/4 cup Jalapeño Vinaigrette
- 1/4 cup Tajin Candied Pepitas
- 1/4 cup queso fresco, crumbled
- 1/4 cup pickled watermelon rind, diced ¼-in
- 10 ea mint leaves, fresh picked
- 10 ea cilantro leaves, fresh picked
- 1/4 cup red onion, thinly shaved
- For the Watermelon “Ham”: Preheat a smoker to 225 degrees F. Load with applewood chips and follow directions for your smoker.
- Completely peel the watermelon and reserve for Pickled Watermelon Rind.
- Using a paring knife, score the outside of the watermelon ½ in deep in a criss-cross pattern. Rub the watermelon with the BBQ rub and allow it to marinate for 1 hour.
- Place in the smoker and smoke for 30 minutes. Remove from smoker and place into walk-in uncovered until chilled below 40 degrees F.
- For the Pickled Watermelon Rind: Place the reserved rinds, water, and salt in a large bowl. Mix well and refrigerate overnight.
- In a large pot, mix together the sugar, vinegar, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and peppercorns. Put over high heat and bring to a boil, approximately 5 minutes.
- Strain the rinds and add them to the boiling brine. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook uncovered for 20 minutes. Discard the cinnamon sticks.
- Carefully ladle the hot rinds and liquid into four 1-pint jars. Wipe the rims, center the lids, and screw on lid and bands until finger tight. Place the jars into simmering water and following basic canning procedure, bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Remove jars and let them cool.
- For the Tajin Candied Pepitas: In a large skillet over medium-high heat, toast the pepitas until they turn light brown, approximately 1 minute. Remove pepitas and place them on a plate to cool.
- In the same skillet, melt the sugar without stirring. Cook over medium-high heat until it turns an even golden amber color, approximately 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and toss pepitas and Tajin seasoning into the sugar. Stir using a heatproof spatula. When the pepitas all clump together, transfer them to a plate to cool. Once cool enough to handle, break into tiny pieces.
- For the Jalapeño Vinaigrette: Place the vinegar and lime juice in a blender followed by all the other ingredients EXCEPT the oil. Carefully turn blender on low and allow it to blend for 1 minute. Open the lid and slowly drizzle in the oil in a steady stream. Only allow it to blend for 1 more minute. Remove, cover, label, and date until needed.
- For the Salad Assembly, per serving: Place the watermelon, cucumbers, vinaigrette, and pepitas in a medium salad bowl and mix thoroughly. Place in the center of a plate.
- Top with the queso fresco crumbles, pickled watermelon rind, mint leaves, cilantro leaves, and thin shaved red onion.