Adam Presents "The Catechism of San Melon Agua"

Who made me? God made me.

Was that his biggest mistake? Not quite (see Boy George).

Who made that excellent watermelon salsa? Oh yeah, I did.

What is salsa? Spanish for sauce.

What is a sauce? Great question. A food that is applied to the surface of another food. God made food, man makes sauce.

Can any food be a sauce? I don’t make the rules, but I know a sauce when I see one.

Who makes the rules? Other than God, Wikipedia.
Can any food be a sauce? Yes… As long as it’s made from food.

Can a sauce be made from watermelon? Yes, and I will tell you how.

Figure 1: The Appropriate Lime-to-Melon Ratio

Step one, select a melon. I really have no idea what makes a good watermelon. The most important thing is concealing my ignorance from my fellow shoppers. I usually touch three random melons, pick up a fourth and attempt to spin it on my finger, reject that one. I palm the smallest one I can find, fake a pass downfield. Then I put that one down and grab the first one that another shopper reaches for.

Next, find some limes. I use three limes for a small melon, five or six for a larger melon. I define a small melon as having a mass equal to or lesser than an obese newborn. A larger melon would require a seatbelt on the ride home. Thirdly, select an onion. One large white or sweet onion will suffice for a small melon. A very large melon may require two onions. Really, quantifying the ingredients for your watermelon salsa will be vague and subjective. These ingredients will also be cheap (and versatile if leftover). Ask yourself, "could I possibly need more?" If so, get more. Don’t forget a heap of garlic cloves, a bundle of fresh cilantro, and your pepper of choice (jalapeño for the prudent, habañero for the insane, bell pepper for the weak, unimaginative drones to be ploughed under when the revolution come). Also, salt and pepper.

Figure 2: Our Ingredients

Dice your melon into quarter inch cubes. This can be perplexing for the uninitiated. Most large melons can be cut in half, then decapitated and the rind cut off in large, curving parallel strips. Large slices of melon can then be cut away and diced individually. Do not try to execute three perpendicular cuts on fruit this size, it will get ugly. Break the task down into small parts, and the dicing will be easier and neater. Add salt (remember: season early, season often). Place the diced melon in a strainer and drain for 30 minutes. Watermelon is very wet, that's why they call it melon. We're going to soak it with lime juice, but to make room for that liquid, we need to get rid of some of the melon-water.

Dice your onion and garlic very finely. Zest the limes, then juice them. De-stem and chop the cilantro leaves. Peppers can be cut into long strips (julienne, alumette or batonnet from thickest to thinnest), small cubes (brunoise) or rings (Richard Starkey). When the melon is drained, add the lime juice, lime zest, cilantro, onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix well with a slotted spoon. Let the salsa marinate in the fridge for half an hour. Taste and re-season as needed. For a very intense salsa, drain the liquid again and add more lime juice and salt, marinate for another 15 minutes before serving.

Figure 3: Serving Suggestion

I don't want to ignore the versatility of this recipe, especially in the summer months. This is not just a Cinco de Mayo or Superbowl type chips-and-dip salsa. I can envision a watermelon salsa on blackened fish or steak, shredded or grilled chicken, or as a legitimate side dish. Watermelon salsa can keep for a few hours in cooler or fridge, and it stays cool due to high water content. This makes it more convenient and durable than salad greens if you are eating outdoors or packing a meal for a trip.

Figure 4: The Mouth-Watering Feast

In my experience, God is the subject of serious and sober discussions. I rarely joke about God, because although I am convinced that such a being would have a well developed sense of humor, God is much larger than I, and really should not be provoked. But I want to point out that the highest authorities in matters of cooking are the tastes and traditions of the individual cook. (Editor's Note: Go figure- no amount of prayer could save my last attempt at alfredo sauce...) Treating any cookbook as a holy text, adhering to a single regional style, or limiting oneself strictly to “home cooking” seems silly and kind of depressing. Food is very important: like religion, it brings people together. But ingredients, flavors, and cooking techniques are neither moral nor immoral (I know a Jewish vegetarian who would disagree, but what can you do?). Cooking nomenclature should not be held to the level of dogma. Unlike religion, where a community is formed around precise and correct behavior, cooking is a friendly competition where points are given for originality (and plating, for which I have a soft spot). Strict adherence to a recipe does have its benefits (in baking, there is often an optimized biochemical process which must be closely controlled), and the single best place to learn about food is under the guidance of a more experienced cook, but persistent attempts to categorize food will only limit your experience. For example, in the “canon” of classic French cuisine, there are but five types of sauce.

Bechamel – A “white” sauce, incorporating a roux made from butter, flour, and boiled milk or cream.

Veloute – A butter & flour roux incorporating fish or chicken stock.

Brown or Espagnole – A “brown” sauce is based on a roux of flour and animal fat.

Hollandaise and Mayonnaise – An emulsion made by whipping oil or butter into egg yolks.

Tomato – Based on pureed or diced “love apples.”

While these are all great sauces that every cook should attempt to make, defining my watermelon salsa according to the old French tradition is tricky, and God cannot (or will not) help the situation. If I was a strictly French cook, I would describe it as a variation on a cold tomato sauce, with a watermelon substitution. But this dish really falls outside the accepted definitions. The ingredients are not the same, the execution is not the same, and neither is the taste and the appropriate food pairings. The language spoken between mouthfuls of watermelon salsa is not French, the music in the background has a strong rhythm, and the surrounding climate is probably hot and dry (or at least sunny). Think for yourself, question authority. With food, you might need to put yourself in an uncomfortable, even vulnerable position if you want to experience something new and amazing.

The definition of sauce from my catechism is pretty liberal. A sauce is any dressing, condiment or marinade. My watermelon sauce can be applied to any food with a permanent surface (this will include almost any solid food). Chips and tortillas fit the bill. Eat it with a utensil and I guess you could call this a watermelon salad. Wrap it in blueberry pancake and serve it in a bag of vegetarian chili... now that's what I call a taco.

2 Have Spoken.:

Lori said...

So what about other fruit salsas? I don't care for watermelon.

What fruits go with which herbs?

Great pictures by the way...

joanna said...

this looks great! i will have to try it next time. watermelon is a fun fruit to play with!