It's hard to let go of summer. In the midst of summer, we sometimes hope it might last forever. Hope the pools will always be crisp, skies forever blue, and fresh produce abundant. All the while, relishing the moments and flavors with abandoned thoughts of the waning time. The now time.
While plump heirloom tomatoes, corn, and squash still dot the farm tables of local vendors, our farmers' market has started its unheralded segue into late season produce. The vibrant colors of spring and summer have been replaced by the quieter muted tones of autumn.
The waning time.
Yesterday morning, I stopped by the market before work to pick up a few things. It was sparse. Empty parking lot. Grey skies. Few vendors.
Before collapsing into a sea of maudlin melancholy, giant watermelons smacked me back to reality. Really? Piled alongside gourds and butternut squash, they seemed strangely out of place. Where were the parades? The festivals? The picnics? Did I miss something? I suppose I thought watermelons had surrendered and disappeared with the forgotten days of summer.
Nope. Watermelons were everywhere. There were a few of the smaller cute varieties, but the majority of them were big. Really big. Stacked on top of each other like huge green canons, they appeared locked, loaded, and primed for rapid fire seed spitting.
Who the hell buys a watermelon after Labor Day?
I succumbed to the lusty crimson flesh of an enormous Summer Flavor watermelon.
Shrimp and Watermelon Salad.
I quartered and cut the monster of a melon into manageable pieces. Because I wanted firm meaty pieces of watermelon, I sliced the flimsy center seedy section from the outer edges and happily munched on the juicy sweet flesh while spitting transparent seeds into the trash. Yep.
After washing my face, hands, counter top, and cutting board, I diced the remaining watermelon into small cubes (brunois, 2 cups) and tossed them into a mixing bowl. After slicing 1/4 pound steamed shrimp into tiny discs, I diced 1 cup green bell pepper, minced 1 clove garlic, and 1 small shallot before adding them to the watermelon.
I seasoned the salad with salt and pepper, showered it with fresh cilantro, and doused it with a bright lime vinaigrette (1/2 cup fresh lime juice, 2 tablespoons honey, 1/3 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper) before sliding it into the refrigerator to chill and marinate.
After filling apertif flutes with the watermelon-shrimp salad, I topped them with steamed shrimp, fresh chives, flaked salt, and coarsely cracked Tellicherry black peppercorns.
The watermelon jewels almost pickled in the marinade, creating ripe bites that were crisp, sweet, and tart. While the buttery tender shrimp mellowed the zing of the lime and cilantro, the aromatic peppercorns added stinging crunchy heat.
So, what was it? Watermelon-shrimp salad, shrimp seviche, gazpacho, or shrimp-studded watermelon pico de gallo?
Perhaps all of the above.