There’s nothing I love better than a party. But I’m not big on themes and don’t fancy decorations that would take ages to create (if I could ever figure out how) or cost a bundle. Honestly, if there was a DSM for party “issues”, I’d probably be diagnosed as party décor-challenged.
Still, I love a nice touch here and there. And in summer, that’s not so difficult. Watermelon and other summer fruits, cold drinks, and frozen desserts make this time of year an easy season to decorate a dish or the table for even the least artistic among us.
Fun Summer Appetizers and Snacks
Bite-sized, hollowed out watermelon cubes filled with savory bits are simple, but elegant appetizers. For the filling, the only tricks are scooping out the cube with care and keeping the the savory bits as small as possible. I found a mélange of olives, tomato, feta cheese, and a bit of seeded jalapeno pepper (all finely chopped) with a spritz of lime juice and a dash of freshly ground pepper to be pleasing. Or try any of the salsa or salad recipes on this post, dicing the ingredients into tinier pieces. If you are really adventurous, layer ingredients on top of the cube, starting with a scooped-out half a cherry tomato, then a small piece of feta or goat cheese, topped by a sliver of olive or scallion.
Fruit skewers are refreshing and super easy. Just be sure the pieces of fruit aren’t too big or your guests will find themselves in rather ungenteel contortions as they struggle to pull them off the skewer. Also, use short skewers. Mine are six inches long. Anything longer be difficult to eat gracefully. These skewer tips come to you directly from an experience I had last week, when my host served fruit skewers that were longer and had larger pieces of fruit. Watching other guests struggle to eat and eating the fruit awkwardly myself caused me to realize that it’s back-to-basics when it comes to fruit skewers.
Carving Watermelon – Tips to Keep You Sane and Safe
Regardless of whether you are going to make an elaborate design, a fun animal or just hollow out the watermelon to use as a bowl, anchor your watermelon. You can do this either by resting it in a non-breakable (plastic) bowl smaller than the watermelon or by cutting a small flat spot on which you “sit” the watermelon.
When cutting the watermelon, keep the knife at an angle that isn’t going to come at your body or extremities if it slips. As cool as it is to cut a watermelon in under 21 seconds, it is definitely not (cool) to aim a knife at your hand. (Around 18 seconds into this video.)
Cut on a surface that catches the juice – unless you like washing the floor. I use a rimmed cookie sheet or a dish towel under a cutting board, so if the juice gets past the cutting board it is captured on the cookie sheet or sopped up by the dish towel.
My first watermelon carving – a bowl, scooped out of a mini-watermelon.
And here is a pro carving a watermelon flower salute to Ellen DeGeneres on her birthday this past year.
Fruit Ice Cubes
Having figured out how easy it was to layer fruit pops, I decided to up my cold drink game by making layered ice cubes. I used pureéd watermelon on the bottom, topped with limeade concentrate diluted 1-to-1, limeade to water. The ice cubes provided just enough zip to flavor seltzer water. They also add a nice, colorful touch to non-alcoholic drinks, and to daiquiris and other cocktails.
Pickled Watermelon Rinds
If you are a guest and not the host, pickled watermelon rinds make an excellent and inexpensive host/hostess gift. You’ll get kudos for your thoughtfulness and bonus points for finding a delicious use for a part of the watermelon that would otherwise go to waste. I tried two pickled watermelon rind recipes – one from my pals at The Bitten Word and the other from Martha Stewart. The latter recipe is amazingly simple. The other one is slightly more complicated, but still easily manageable for a beginning cook. (Although The Bitten Word gives directions for canning, I didn’t bother with my small batch. Instead, I just used canning jars as containers, telling my hosts to refrigerate the rinds and use them this summer.) At dinner we did a taste test, trying both versions with our delicious barbecued steak, corn and salad dinner. The verdict was evenly split, so I’d say both recipes were a hit. I made a half batch of each, which gave me enough to fill jars for my hosts and leave one of each at home. So I can continue to enjoy this treat through the summer at my own parties too.
Disclosure – This post is part of a series sponsored by the National Watermelon Promotion Board. The Board compensated me to write about watermelon, but did not dictate or review the content. All opinions expressed and editorial decisions are completely my own.