Watermelon winners

By Holly Clegg

Fresh watermelons stocked in the grocery store or market signal that it is finally summer in south Louisiana. And nothing delights quite like a big slice of watermelon when the temperature climbs high. The great news about this juicy fruit is that, even though watermelon is 92% water, it is full of nutrition, including antioxidant vitamins C and A, as well as potassium and lycopene. This melon is easy to eat right off the rind, yet it’s also a great addition to many summertime meals.

If you are trying to find a perfect melon for purchase, tap on those that appeal to you. The heavier, more hollow the sound it makes, the better. Watermelons with seeds are fine for many folks, and there is no harm in eating the seeds. However, you can readily find cultivated seedless varieties, and they taste delicious as well.

Soups can appear on menus all year long, not just during the chilly months. Those served cool are perfect for the first course at an outdoor party. Watermelon Gazpacho is a light and tantalizing starter to a summertime meal. If you think you’d enjoy this refreshing soup with a bit of heat, add hot sauce for a wow factor. This recipe is best made in advance to give its flavors time to meld.

A great way to use leftover watermelon and cantaloupe is my Spinach and Melon Salad with Honey Citrus Vinaigrette. It’s easy to throw together, looks beautiful, and really hits the spot. This fruity salad, accented with my Maple Pecans, is packed with flavor. It is substantial enough for a main meal at lunch but light enough to be eaten as a first course at sunset.

Sliced watermelon is an easy summer snack, but don’t discount the benefit of adding watermelon as an ingredient to your meals. It is a seasonal delight in these soup and salad dishes and is a surefire winner for guests of all ages.

Watermelon Gazpacho

This outstanding soup has a surprising medley of ingredients.

8 cups seedless watermelon chunks
2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
1 small onion, chopped
1 12-oz. jar roasted red peppers, drained
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1/2 cups cranberry cocktail juice
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
Salt to taste
Hearty dash hot sauce

Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until almost pureed, or until desired consistency is achieved. Add more cranberry juice if needed. Makes 10 (1-cup) servings.

Nutritional information per serving: Calories 103 | Calories from fat 36% | Fat 4g | Saturated fat 1g Cholesterol 0mg | Sodium 72mg | Carbohydrate 16g | Dietary fiber 1g | Sugars 11g | Protein 1g | Dietary exchanges: 1/2 fruit, 1 vegetable, 1 fat

Spinach and Melon Salad with Honey Citrus Vinaigrette

Spinach and Melon Salad with Honey Citrus Vinaigrette

A colorful summer salad that's refreshing and packed with flavor!

1 6-oz. package fresh baby spinach
1 cup watermelon, cubed and seeded
1 cup cantaloupe, cubed
1 small cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup red onion, halved and thinly sliced
Honey Citrus Vinaigrette
Maple Pecans (optional)

In large bowl, combine together first five ingredients. Toss with Honey Citrus Vinaigrette and Maple Pecans. Makes 6 servings.

Honey Citrus Vinaigrette

2 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. orange juice
1 Tbsp. lime juice
Salt and pepper
Dash hot sauce

In small bowl, whisk together all ingredients.

Nutritional information per serving: Calories 77 | Calories from fat 28% | Fat 3g | Saturated fat 0g Cholesterol 0mg | Sodium 29mg | Carbohydrate 14g | Dietary fiber 1g Sugars 11g | Protein 2g | Diabetic exchanges: 1 carbohydrate, 12 fat

Maple Pecans

This topping adds extra crunch and sweetness to any salad and can also be served alone as a snack.

1/4 cup pecan halves
1 Tbsp. maple syrup

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. In a small bowl, mix together pecans and maple syrup. Spread in a single layer on prepared pan. Bake 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Nutritional information per serving: Calories 40 | Calories from fat 72% | Fat 3g | Saturated fat 0g | Cholesterol 0mg Sodium 0mg | Carbohydrate 3g | Dietary fiber 0g | Sugars 2g | Protein 0g | Diabetic exchanges: 12 fat

Holly Clegg is the author of the best-selling trim&TERRIFIC cookbooks, Eating Well Through Cancer and Too Hot in the Kitchen: Secrets to Sizzle at Any Age. For more information, visit hollyclegg.com or thehealthycookingblog.com.