Watermelon Mint Cooler + Tips for Selecting a Perfectly Ripe Watermelon

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I had a dream last night. I dreamt that I was wandering about a watermelon patch, knee deep in winding vines and leaves with the earthy aroma of sweet vine ripened watermelons wafting about the air. I reached down to run my hand over the smooth surface of a melon, rolling my fingertips down along the sides of its cool and ethereally smooth exterior until it suddenly cracked open with a snap, revealing a deep crimson flesh beautifully speckled with little black seeds. Without even tasting it, I could tell the melon was ripe, its juices running down its interior before pooling beneath its rind. Just as I reached into the melon to retrieve a sweet, firm piece of melon to sweeten my tongue, I suddenly heard a ringing in the distance. The ringing increased in volume by the second until it reached a loud rhythmic blare. Ah, yes, it was the ever-dreaded alarm clock to shake me from my dream and jolt me back to reality. 

Needless to say, I awoke with a hankering for sweet watermelon, and off to the farmer’s market I went to retrieve a beautiful melon for myself. I promised you all recipes that were conducive to the summer months, ones that would satiate the most demanding of palates and ones that would epitomize the beautiful season of summer. My word is my bond, and so, as promised, I bring you this recipe for a gorgeous red drink that is sure to stave off your summer-time thirst and refresh your palate. 

This cooler is a lemonade of sorts combining watermelon, lemon, mint and even cucumber to create a refreshing and filling drink that was made for summer meals and hot days in the sun. The lemon adds a splash of tang and the cucumber provides a wonderful (and much needed) cooling effect on your body and makes this cooler unbelievably refreshing and even healthy! Mint is classically paired with watermelon, so why mess with tradition. The drink itself is not overly sweetened with sugar since the watermelon – if it is ripe and fresh – will naturally sweeten it.

Watermelons are available at your local farmer’s market during the summer months. There’s a lovely farm about 5 minutes away from us that has trucks upon trucks of delicious watermelon. On a daily basis, legions of locals will flock to the market to retrieve beautiful green watermelons which are sure to be gobbled up within minutes of slicing!

Tips for Selecting a Perfectly Ripe and Sweet Melon: When shopping for watermelon, look for a melon that is free of dents, bruises, and cuts. If the underside of the melon has a yellow or light bottom, it should be perfectly ripe. If distinct stripes are found all around the melon, that indicates that they’re not ripe and sweet. You’ll often find people tapping a watermelon as they put it up to their ear. You’ll want to do that to check for signs of hollowness. If the melon sounds hollow when tapped, it means it’s fresh and ripe! Lastly, your watermelon should be heavy for its size. Watermelons have a very high water content so a ripe, sweet melon should be heavy and dense.  Before cutting, wash watermelons with soap and water so dirt on the rind doesn’t get into into the flesh. You can refrigerate cut watermelon in a sealed container for up to one week. Uncut watermelons can be stored at room temperature up to two weeks before they start to spoil. 

The watermelon truly defines summer for most of us and is enjoyed in recipes as much as it is on its own, so, don’t be surprised if you find it popping up in recipes everywhere this summer!

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DSC_0113 Coarsely chop the watermelon – it doesn’t have to be perfect – as it will all be pureed in the blender. 

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Mint Lemonade (Limonana)

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I was wearing my travel-agent hat for the better part of the day today. I found myself scouring through various travel publications and last-minute travel websites in search of a holiday destination for a quick getaway; a curious fact considering that my husband and I are just coming off the heels of a 3-week winter holiday, but they say, “no man needs a vacation so much as the man who has just had one” and so, we are clearly an exemplification of that adage. So all this talk about holidays and destinations boasting balmy beaches and resorts, left me with a hankering for a sweet elixir of sorts; a cool summery drink to suit the mood I was in. So perhaps you’re thinking that this drink is not conducive to this time of year, but I beg to differ. What better time is there than the dead of winter to whip up a pitcher of sweet lemonade, kick up your heels, and reminisce about past holidays spent in warmer climates.

This particular drink is one we first enjoyed in Dubai; a drink that was introduced to us by our good friends from across the pond, Naveen and Rehan. It has become a quick favourite in our home. The recipe is indigenous to the Middle East with Syria, Turkey and Lebanon all having claimed credit for the origins of this sweet drink. It’s the type of drink that hits the spot on a cold winter’s day spent indoors, as much as it does on a sweltering hot day in the peak of summer. The flavour is very much what you’d expect of a lemonade — a balance of sweetness and tartness — but there’s a residual taste of fresh mint that livens the drink completely and transforms it from your run-of-the-mill, pedestrian lemonade to a higher flavour profile. The colour is deep and gorgeous and intensifies as it sits in the bottle or pitcher. The texture is similar to that of a margarita as the slush from the crushed ice rises to the top creating a foam of sorts that is both beautiful to look at and adds a textural element with the crunch of pulverized ice cubes.

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