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Friday, July 26, 2013

Watermelon Month (July is National)

Nothing says summer like cold, juicy watermelon, especially during the month of July - National Watermelon Month.  Lucky for me I had a beautiful, heavy for it's weight specimen sitting in the refrigerator waiting to be carved down to a couple of cold, juicy recipes for the celebration.  (Whew, I do hate missing any of the fresh produce holidays, don't you?)

Did you know watermelon is native to North Africa?  So am I!  Well, via my mother who was born/raised in Morocco and was whisked away to Chicago by a handsome American sailor, aka my father.

Another interesting fact is that watermelon is the lycopene (anti-oxidant) leader of the fresh produce world, with lots of vitamin A, B6, C, plus bonus potassium.  Since watermelon is 92% water and we can't survive without water, and we're supposed to drink lots of water, why not get some of that water in you with the sweet flavor only watermelon can bring?

Here's a tidbit that brings us to today's recipes:  The very 1st cookbook published in the U.S., in 1796 contained a recipe for watermelon rind pickles.  Since I've always wanted to try making these, partly because I hate to waste anything, I found out the way to make modern, quick, refrigerator pickled watermelon rinds and I'm happy to share the recipe below.  

Not to forget that cold, juicy watermelon flesh, one of my favorite summer refreshers is to put chunks of fresh melon, some grated ginger, and a few fresh mint leaves in a blender and pulse to liquefy.  Pour this into a pretty glass about 3/4 full, then add some sparkling water and a fresh mint garnish.  A votre sante!      

Pickled Watermelon Rind
watermelon rind, peeled and cut into cubes
(6 cups total)
4 cups water
3 Tbsp. sea salt
splash of rose water (optional)

1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
2 star anise
2 one-inch pieces of cinnamon stick

(Leave a bit of the flesh when peeling the watermelon rind)         

Place the peeled and cubed rind in a bowl and add the 4 cups of water. Pour in a splash of rose water plus the salt and stir.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 24 hours.  Drain and rinse well.

In a stockpot combine the rinsed rind with the sugar, vinegar, water, star anise and cinnamon and bring the mixture to a boil.  Remove from the heat and cool completely.  Pour into jar(s), seal, and place in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours before serving.  I'm planning on serving these with little chunks of fresh, white cheese and olives this weekend.

What will you do with your pickled watermelon rinds?

More great watermelon info here:

Friday, July 19, 2013

Fresh Figsicles

Fresh figs are one of summer's most fabulous fruit gifts, and when they come to you as a gift from the California Fig Advisory Board, they're even more fabulous.

Calimyrna's from DeBenedetto Orchards on the right

Now is the time for the plump, beautifully light chartreuse colored Calimyrna variety. Try ever so hard to refrain from eating every last one of them immediately out of hand.  With just 3 of these sweet, succulent fruits you can create this cool, refreshing, easy recipe that will make you scream for ice cream - Figsicles, that is.

FIGSICLES (makes 4)
1 cup almond milk
3/4 cup natural sugar (think I'll try honey next time)
6 oz. Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp. orange blossom water
3 calimyrna figs

Before you get started on the main recipe, take 1 fig, cut it into little chunks, place on a tray with parchment paper, and freeze (about 1 hour).

Put the milk and sugar in a saucepan and cook over low heat until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat, cool to room temperature, and whisk in the yogurt, orange blossom water, and the insides of the 2 remaining figs.  Put this mixture in the fridge for about an hour to chill.

Take your sicle molds (mine has 4) and drop a chunk of frozen fig in the bottom of each.  Pour in some of the creamy mixture.  Drop in more chunks.  Pour in more mixture.  Seal the molds and freeze completely.

For the inspiration recipe, way better pictures, and way cooler looking figsicles visit

For more info on fresh figs visit

Friday, July 12, 2013

Celebration Crepes

From Memorial Day through the Fourth of July and up to Labor Day, summer in America has everything colored in red, white and blue.  Smack dab in the middle of our own patriotic partying is Bastille Day, a national holiday in France and celebrated by Francophiles all over the world.  Taking place this year on Sunday, July 14, Bastille Day commemorates the storming of Bastille prison and the end of the monarchy in 1789, and La Fete Nationale has been a red, white, and blue party once a year ever since.

For Bastille Day or any tricolor celebration, here's a recipe that combines
crepes (Melissa's) and creme fraiche from France, fresh fruit from California,
and American homegrown strawberry and blueberry pie fillings from
Lucky Leaf for a creamy, fruity, tasty, and fancy holiday dessert.  Bon Appetite!

1 package Melissa's crepes
1- 8 oz. container of whipped cream cheese
1- 7.5 oz. container of creme fraiche
1-2 Tbsp. honey (to taste)
1 orange for zest and garnish
1 can Lucky Leaf premium blueberry pie filling
1 can Lucky Leaf premium strawberry pie filling
fresh strawberries and blueberries for garnish
confectioner's sugar for garnish

For the filling, combine the whipped cream cheese, creme fraiche, honey, and 1 tablespoon of orange zest in a bowl and whip to combine.  Taste and add more honey and orange zest to taste.

Assembly line style, lay out the crepes and divide the filling down the center of each one.  Take a little of the blueberry filling and spread down one side, and take some of the strawberry filling and spread it down the other side.

Roll up each crepe, and then get as fancy or as simple as you like.  I took a clean, food only paint brush and used the pie filling to paint red and blue lines on the top.  Then I sprinkled the white confectioner's sugar over the crepes and garnished each one with a slice of orange, a strawberry, and a couple of blueberries.  Oooo, la la!!

(For more recipes from Lucky Leaf join the twitter conversation at #luckyleafluckyme)