With three barbecue potlucks to attend this weekend, I've been thinking about dishes that can serve a crowd, are easy to transport, and aren't too complicated to cook in this scorching weather (anything to avoid turning on the stove or oven!). My solution? A simple yet refreshing summer watermelon dusted with chile, salt, and lime.
Seasoning fruit with chile peppers and salt is common in places like Southeast Asia and Mexico. If you haven't tried it before, you're in for a treat! The heat and salt brings out the juicy sweetness of the watermelon, and I also like adding lime zest and juice for extra punch. If you have the misfortune of a lackluster watermelon, this is a great way to give it some life.
You don't have to stop at watermelon, either. The zesty combination of chile, salt, and lime is fantastic on other fruits like pineapple, cantaloupe, mango, papaya, and cucumber.
For the chile powder, I like using something a bit sweet with relatively low heat. Chimayó is a good choice, as well as ancho. You could also use a smaller amount of a hotter pepper like cayenne or aleppo. Just make sure to avoid chili powder that contains other ingredients like cumin and oregano.
Watermelon with Chile, Salt & Lime
Serves about 5
1 tablespoon kosher salt or other coarse salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground chile pepper
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 (10-pound) watermelon, cut into wedges
Lime wedges and mint leaves for garnish (optional)
Combine the salt, chile pepper, and lime zest in a mortar and pestle. (If you don't have a mortar and pestle, you can finely chop the lime zest and use a fork to mix it with the salt and chile powder.)
Arrange the watermelon wedges on a platter and drizzle with lime juice. Sprinkle the chile mixture on top. Garnish with lime wedges and mint leaves, if desired.
Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.
To serve as an hors d'oeuvre: Cut the watermelon into squares, drizzle with lime juice, and spear with toothpicks. Chile mixture may be sprinkled directly on the watermelon, served in a dipping bowl on the side, or spread out on a plate as a "bed" for the watermelon.
To serve as a salad: Chop the watermelon into chunks and toss with lime juice, chile mixture, and chiffonade of mint leaves.
(Images: Emily Ho)