This refreshing salad is excellent with grilled meat and seafood. With a flavor profile similar to that of Thai green papaya or banana blossom salad, this recipe takes advantage of crisp, refreshing watermelon rind, which is marinated in a mixture of lemongrass syrup, lime juice, basil, fresh chilies and fish sauce. After the rind has absorbed all the flavors, you toss it with cubes of fresh watermelon for a juicy dish that I find difficult to stop eating, as the sweet watermelon plays against the savory, spicy and tart flavors. If you can find mâche, a tender dark green lettuce, it adds beautiful contrasting color and even more juicy crunch to the combination. Note: Most recipes that call for lemongrass only use the bulbous white bottom parts, but here you can use the leftover top parts of the stalks, or use 2 whole lemongrass stalks. You will have some leftover syrup, which is delicious in cocktails, lemonade or desserts.
• 1/2 cup mild honey
• 1/2 cup water
• 1/2 cup lemongrass, cut in 1-inch pieces, from the tops of 4 stalks
• 3 pounds seedless watermelon, unpeeled
• 3 tablespoons lime juice (from 2 to 3 juicy limes), divided
• 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Asian fish sauce
• 2 tablespoons thinly sliced shallot
• 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil, preferably Thai basil
• 1 serrano chili, chopped
• 2 to 4 cups mâche or baby spinach
1. To make syrup, place honey and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until honey dissolves, 2 to 3 minutes. Add lemongrass stalks, return to simmer, and cook until lemongrass flavor is infused into syrup, 5 to 7 minutes. Let cool, then strain.
2. To make salad, remove rind from watermelon. Chop melon flesh into 3/4-inch cubes (you should have around 4 cups) and refrigerate until serving. Cut rind into julienne strips until you have 2 cups. Place in a small bowl and add 2 tablespoons lemongrass syrup, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, shallot, basil and half the serrano. Toss to combine, then cover and marinate, refrigerated, for 1 to 3 hours.
3. To serve, combine watermelon cubes with marinated rind and its juices. Season with remaining lime juice, fish sauce and serrano, to taste. Add greens and toss gently. Serve immediately while cold.For helpful whole plants tips visit: Eat the Whole Plant