Come August in the South, you’ve done the whole watermelon by the slice, juice running down your chin thing. You’ve had it at summer cookouts, eaten ice-cold cubes of it straight from the fridge, blended it for watermelon mojitos, and maybe even frozen it into popsicles. More watermelon might have you wondering what’s next? You could be tempted to wish for cooler weather and warmer dishes right now—but don’t dismiss August. The late summer sun, strong like a tumbler of whiskey, brings out the deepest flavor in August’s fruits.
So heave another watermelon into your grocery basket. Turn to other climes for inspiration, places equally acquainted with hot, languid days. Borrow a recipe from India and wake your watermelon—and your tastebuds— right up. Loosely influenced by a traditional watermelon curry from the Indian state of Rajasthan, this savory salad takes watermelon and tomato on a surprising trip to your spice cabinet. Cumin seed and fresh ginger are toasted in hot oil to bloom the flavors; turmeric and chile round out the curry-like sauce. You pour the dressing over a pile of cubed fruit tossed in a little sugar, salt, and fresh mint . . . and serve. Hot dressing, cold fruit? It’s strange, but wonderful. As the most inspired cooking so often turns out to be.
CURRY-SPICED WATERMELON SALAD
6 cups of watermelon, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 tsp. sugar
Salt, to taste
1/3 c. sliced fresh mint
Juice of ½ lime
1 ½ tsp. cumin seeds
1 (1-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
¼ tsp. turmeric
¼ tsp. chile powder
Juice of 1 lemon
1. Purée 2 cups of the watermelon in a blender and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the remaining watermelon and tomato and toss with the sugar, a large pinch of salt, the mint, and lime juice.
2. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add enough oil to thinly coat the pan. When the oil is hot, add the cumin seed and ginger and toast for 30 seconds. Add the turmeric and chile powder, then 1/2 cup of watermelon juice and the lemon juice. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 minute.
3. Pour the dressing over the watermelon and tomatoes and gently stir together. Top with more fresh mint and salt if desired.
*Adapted from a recipe by Surbhi Shane