Dense, Delicious Melons (or utilizing culinary compression)

Compressed watermelon salad w. olives, feta, micro greens and olive oil

Compressed watermelon salad w. olives, feta, micro greens and olive oil

Nothing really says summer like watermelon. Even though I think it’s best au naturel — ice cold with a hint of salt — I also really love mixing it into a (mostly) savory salad. I was introduced to the idea while working the pantry station as a line cook years ago. On the menu was a salad of perfectly cubed watermelon garnished with crumbled feta, pitted kalamata olives, mint leaves and mint oil. Somehow, even though I was familiar with the classic melon and prosciutto pairing, this combination pretty much blew my mind.

I’ve since added that watermelon salad to my revolving summer repertoire where it has, for the most part, stayed the same. The salt from the feta and olives is outstanding with the sweet melon. For greens, I still use mint when I have it around, but have found spicy greens like arugula, baby mustard greens or nasturtiums also work fabulously. And a little red onion is just a good thing overall. In lieu of mint oil, I’ve found a drizzle of lemon juice or good extra virgin olive oil is all that’s really needed to “dress” this salad.

However, after this year, I’m adding a new modernist element to my old favorite — compression.

The first time I had compressed watermelon was Friday night when my parents were in town visiting. My husband made us an appetizer that was as gorgeous as it was delicious — sliced raw scallops marinated in olive oil, togarashi and lemon served with cubes of watermelon and heirloom tomatoes. While the whole thing was fabulous, it was the melon that made the dish so interesting. Compressed it mimicked the look of tuna, glistening and meaty. It was no longer light and airy chunks, but instead dense and toothsome jewels.

Again, I was blown away.

Compressed watermelon

Compressed watermelon

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Pork and Pineapple 2.0 — New meat, New method

Sriracha-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin

Sriracha-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin

A year or so ago, I bought a fresh pineapple for the sole purpose of making a recipe I had been dying to try — a boneless pork butt slathered in Sriracha and slow roasted for hours on a bed of pineapple. It turned out pretty amazing, a tangy combination of sweet, spicy and sour.

While I loved the flavor, the leftovers turned out to be slightly dry because of the cooking process. The meat ends up glazed and tender, but it lacks a sauce to help keep it moist upon reheating. And even though we are, as I like to put it, “professional eaters,” my husband and I couldn’t polish off the whole six-pound piece in one sitting.

So, since I had recently been daydreaming about the dish, I decided to make it again using a pork tenderloin instead. The key difference is that the pork butt needed to roast for a long time at low temperature to be tender, whereas the tenderloin would be tender cooked to medium-rare. I figured this would offer more forgiveness for the leftovers.

Pineapple cooked in sugar and vinegar

Pineapple cooked in sugar and vinegar

I kept the same preparation, cutting the meat in a spiral and rubbing it with spices and Sriracha before tying it up in kitchen twine. Since the cooking time was dramatically reduced, I started off the pineapple (tossed with equal parts brown sugar and apple cider vinegar) a good hour beforehand.

Once the pineapple was tender and fragrant (and, oh man, it smelled so good!), I placed the tenderloin on top, and let it roll. About 20 minutes later, I opened my oven and was greeted to the most beautiful sight:

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Additions to the Rumtopf: Perfect Pears

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Sugared Pears for the Rumtopf

It’s been a while since I’ve added anything to my boozy experiment, but don’t worry — I haven’t forgotten it! I’ve got some plums that are almost ready but in the meantime, I just added some perfectly ripe pears. It’s looking quite delightful — can’t wait to get to drink it! (Rumtopf is traditionally eaten around Christmas, so thankfully I don’t have much longer to go.)

Look at that beautiful color!

Additions to the Rumtopf: A boozy work in progress

About a month ago, my friend DB and I followed in our non-existent German ancestors’ footsteps and began making rumtopf. We each have our own crock, full (so far) of rum, strawberries, blueberries and nectarines.

I added some more goodies — fresh local blackberries and Bing cherries — to my crock this weekend. While I was in there, I tasted some of the liquid, rum with sugar and fruit juices. It is so amazingly good, I can’t even believe it.

In fact I’m tempted to start another batch now, because as soon as December hits I am going to plow through this one.

Blackberries and cherries macerated in sugar

Rumtopf crock brimming with goodness!

Want to start your own crock of boozy fruit? Check out the first post to see how!

Additions to my Rumtopf — White Nectarines

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I did my first addition to my rumtopf this weekend. I had intended to wait until DB and I hung out again, but I had some white nectarines that were too perfectly ripe to resist. They were calling out to be soaked in the rum-filled crock of goodness. So I diced them up, stirred in some sugar and left them to sit for about thirty minutes. Then I added them to the strawberry and rum mixture — which is really smelling fantastic! I can’t wait until December when I finally get to try it. Until then, I’ll be on the prowl for more juicy ripe fruit to throw in.

Have you started your own rumtopf yet? You probably should — it’s not too late!

Check out this post for details on how to do it.

How cute is my little blue duck crock?

The color from the strawberries has really leached into the rum

On Rum and Friendship…

People have many different ways of defining friendship. Just look around on Pinterest if you don’t believe me — you’ll find a ton of various posts about how to determine if someone qualifies to be a best friend or not. One of my favorites is “A friend will help you move. A best friend will help you move a body.” While I haven’t — and hopefully won’t — ever need to move a body, I still appreciate the sentiment.

After this weekend, I have developed my own definition, more tailored to my own life. “A friend will let you come over and pick a few pounds of strawberries out of his garden. A very good friend will give you rum to soak them in.”

And my friend DB is a very good friend indeed.

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