How to keep cool in Sicily. Balsam Mediterranean Kitchen recipes: Chilled “I carried a watermelon”, ginger & mint shots PLUS watermelon & tomato salad with ricotta salata (salted ricotta)

I’m supposed to have started my dissertation on the Mediterranean Diet this week but it’s JUST TOO HOT to do anything. PLUS I got seriously distracted last week visiting my new born niece in the UK (too cute, miss her already). So, I thought I’d ease myself back into things by posting a couple of recipes on one of my favourite summer fruits, watermelon. I promised myself at the start of this year that I would take myself out of my comfort zone and trying new recipes with watermelon sits in this category!

I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to certain foods. Take avocado for example. I’ve never understood why anyone would want to stick such as wonderful thing in a blender when it tastes so good on its own? I feel the same about watermelon. What could be better after a hot and humid day then that first sweet, slightly crunchy mouthful of ripe watermelon? I take my watermelon purchasing seriously, a few taps here and there in anticipation of a hollow sound to confirm its ripeness. If I can’t make up my mind then there’s usually an intense discussion with the fruttivendolo (greengrocer) as to which I should choose. After all, watermelon takes up a lot of space in the fridge. Too ripe and you can find yourself eating watermelon for breakfast, lunch and dinner just to finish it before it gets too soft. Not ripe enough and not only are you stuck with at least 6kgs of unripe fruit but, the integrity of the fruttivendolo who sold it to you is usually brought into question. These are actual topics of conversation at the dinner table in Sicily.

L’anguria or cocomero contains over 90% water so it’s ideal for hydration yet is nutrient dense. A rich source of vitamins and minerals including vitamin C and lycopene. Several studies suggest lycopene may have antioxidant benefits supporting the immune system and providing health benefits in the prevention of disease. Vitamin A helps maintain healthy eyes and skin. Watermelon also contains a non-essential amino acid L-citrulline which is converted into L-arginine, important for heart and blood vessel health. Buon appetito!

Chilled “I carried a watermelon”, ginger & mint shots

Makes 4 shots

500 grams of ripe watermelon (deseeded and cut into cubes)

1 teaspoon of fresh, peeled ginger (+/- according to taste)

Squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice

3-4 mint leaves (+/- according to taste)

*Blend the ingredients together

*Refrigerate for at least an hour

*Put into shot glasses & enjoy!

*Add more ginger or lemon/lime juice if the watermelon is very ripe and sweet. If it needs sweetening then add some honey

Watermelon & tomato salad with ricotta salata (salted ricotta)

Serves 2

80-100 grams of green salad leaves

200 grams of tomatoes (that’s about 2 tomatoes sliced or chopped)

200 grams of watermelon (sliced or cut into cubes)

30 grams of finely sliced olives

30 grams of finely sliced red onion

30 grams of salted ricotta or feta cheese (+/- according to taste)

A glug of olive oil

A dash of pepper

Balsamic vinegar to taste

*Assemble the ingredients together

*Add pieces of salted ricotta (it is very salty so you will not need any additional salt)

*Add the olive oil, pepper and balsamic vinegar (+/- according to taste)