Swollen with the promise of endless days, if summer were a fruit, it would be a watermelon, which seems to yield an infinity of pieces, and then — as the season itself — vanishes.
Before air-conditioning transformed how we cope with summer’s heat, there was watermelon. Mark Twain described watermelon as, “…chief of this world’s luxuries, king by the grace of God over all the fruits of the earth. When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat.”
Anyone who’s devoured a thick, sweet, juicy wedge of watermelon on a sweltering summer day would be hard-pressed to disagree with Mr. Twain. But eating an under-ripe melon may be a dismal disappointment.
The best ways I know of gauging a melon’s ripeness are two-fold: a brief inspection and thump. Roll the melon over and check the bottom. If it’s white, it’s not ready for the knife. A yellowed or light brown color is a good indicator the melon is prime.
To double-check, with your forefinger, thump the melon sharply a few times or flick it with your fingertips. You should hear a reverberation — a hollow thwunk — within the melon, indicating it’s ready for the plunge.
There is much debate over whether to purchase seedless or seed-in watermelon. When purchasing watermelon to simply slice and enjoy, I purchase seed-in. For me, like a bone-in steak, watermelon containing seeds is tastier. Besides, a seed-spitting contest is the only competitive sport in which I excel.
That being said, when using watermelon in a salad or soup recipe, such as the one below, I always purchase seedless. Picking out the seeds makes me crazy, and heaven forbid I accidentally swallow one. Seeds are often camouflaged with other ingredients, and growing up, my great Aunt Suela assured me a melon would grow in my stomach if an errant seed slid down my throat; the thought still unnerves.
I was inspired to make this soup by a recipe I found online from Kuwait. The soup is light, a wonderful prelude to a more substantial summer meal, and contains the essence of watermelon flavor. I often use rich and tangy pomegranate molasses in marinades, available in any store that stocks Middle Eastern staples, and it is wonderful in this soup. If not available at your grocers, substitute the pomegranate molasses with honey and lemon juice to taste.
Like diving into a cold lake in the heat of a summer afternoon, your first sip of this soup may startle your sensibilities evoking more of an intense melon flavor than the fruit it’s wrought from. As your taste buds grow accustomed to the chill, swimming in flavors of watermelon, pomegranate and feta, you finish the last drop and emerge from this pool of bliss with a sigh of regret.