Grilled Watermelon Caprese (Plus: 5 Easy Ways to use Garden-Fresh Herbs)
As you might have guessed from my lack of posting since MAY (yikes – sorry!), this summer has been craaaaaaazy. In the best sort of way of course, but I am almost sure that I have NEVER been kept this busy! I started out the summer in Houston, where I spent my second year at the Texas Music Festival as an orchestra fellow. Now I’m in Duxbury, Massachusetts studying/performing at the Duxbury Music Festival. Once I leave here, it’s travel for the rest of the summer. That will include a trip that I am SUPER SUPER SUPER excited about – I will be taking a culinary birthright trip, which basically means I get to go to Israel, learn all about local foods and recipes, cook, eat, meet other people who love those things as much as I do… And do all of it for free. It’s a pretty sweet deal.
One of the things I love the most about cooking in the summer, whether it’s across the world or in my backyard, IS using fresh, local, and/or homegrown ingredients. This month’s Recipe Redux was all about that, which got me quite excited! My parents’ house has a beautiful herb garden which was really vibrant this year. We have rosemary, cilantro, parsley,chives, mint, and basil, which might not seem like a lot, but is nothing to sneeze at when you have an almost infinite supply!
Keeping an herb garden in the summer is a super inexpensive way to cook delicious, flavorful meals, because you don’t have to buy bunches of herbs every time you want to make something. They quite literally grow themselves, and that’s a pretty handy thing if you ask me. Our basil plant was especially fruitful this year, which made for a LOT of delicious basil dishes. One of my favorite things to do with fresh basil in the summer is make caprese salad – it’s SO easy, everyone loves it, and a good, fragrant basil makes all the difference.
But normal caprese salad (tomatoes, mozz, basil) can be a little too simple sometimes. So if you’re like me and like to take extra steps toward a product that seems really simple but is decidedly worth it… This grilled watermelon caprese is for you.
Last summer, I kind of had an obsession with grilled fruit. I made grilled pineapple sorbet and grilled peach salsa, and while the extra step of grilling the fruit first may seem, well… extraneous, I promise you it really truly isn’t! The grilled watermelon in this recipe takes on a WHOLE new texture and flavor (slightly reminiscent of a roasted pepper) while still retaining that fresh, sweet watermelon taste that is so synonymous with summer.
A few tips about this salad – once the watermelon is grilled, it releases a TON of juice. Assemble the salad right away before serving, or you may have a soggier salad. You may set the watermelon aside in a dish until ready to use. You may even decide to incorporate the leftover juices into your dressing! Also, I cut my watermelon into big width-wise slices and then cut rounds out with a glass. BUT, you could easily just cut out even triangles for a more geometrically interesting salad 🙂
Plus: 5 More Tips for Getting the Most out of Your Herb Garden!
Pesto is a really easy and fun way to use your herbs because you can combine them, and experiment with throwing in a few different kinds of herbs. It’s also a great use for little leaves that are too small for a visual dish like a caprese. Especailly since smaller leaves can pack a lot of flavor!
2. Herb Butter
Herb butter is a great way to make your friends and family think you’re super fancy, when in reality, all you need to know is how to use a fork. Finely chop or lightly pulse in a food processor about 1/3 cup of any herbs you like, and mash the chopped herbs in with 1/2 stick of room-temperature unsalted butter. Add salt to taste. To store, get a piece of a saran wrap, drop the butter into the center, fold the wrap over the top of the butter and squeeze the butter back into a small log, then twist the ends of the wrap closed. Store in the fridge. I LOVE cilantro butter and chive butter in the summer, especially for corn and grilled meats. I also recommend it for toast or for making omelets!
3. Cocktails/Infused Drinks
Iced teas, cocktails, and plain old water get a makeover they didn’t even know they needed with fresh herbs. Grind some into the bottom of a cocktail, or throw whole leaves into a pitcher of water or cooled, unsweetened tea with some citrus for a delicious, refreshing drink. Or, slice your herbs and make ice cubes out of them!
4. Dry Them
Did you know you can dry herbs in your MICROWAVE?! There are other ways to dry your herbs yourself, too, and it makes all the difference in their flavor vs. store bought dried herbs. After I dry my herbs, I love to sprinkle them on top of stove-popped popcorn.
Mix some chopped herbs into any salad (green salad, grain salad, bean salad, potato salad, etc.) and it will automatically make it better, I promise. Or, chop some herbs up very finely and mix them into your favorite dressing, or simply into some vinegar and oil, for a super flavorful dressing.
- One medium watermelon, sliced into 1/4 inch thick triangles or rounds
- 4-5 medium beefsteak or plum tomatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
- 1 large ball (~8 oz or larger) fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into thin rounds
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- Olive oil (1 tbs. for grilling, 1 tbs. for dressing if desired)
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Cut out the watermelon rounds.
- Brush lightly with olive oil and lightly salt on both sides.
- Place salt side down onto grill.
- Close grill for about 3-4 minutes. Watermelon should then be easily flipped and have grill marks. Flip, salt the other side, and close the grill for another 3-4 minutes.
- Repeat with remaining watermelon.
- Set aside grilled watermelon to let sit and cool.
- When ready to serve, layer tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and watermelon on a platter. Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar of your choice.