i found a yellow watermelon

last summer, while i was still living in DC, i became an avid reader of the washington post--and with that affinity came exposure to the delightful kim o’donnell and her blog on washintonpost.com. it was through this medium that i first learned about the existence of the elusive yellow watermelon.

kim innocently posted a photo of a sliced yellow watermelon, fresh from one of her farmers’ market expeditions. i was capitvated at first site. something about the shock value of seeing the yellow flesh with the black seeds and the familiar green rind stuck in my mind and never left. i spent the rest of the summer fruitlessly seeking out the yellow watermelon. the closest i came to tracking it down was a king kullen store in long island, but the fruit was short on flavor and not what i had hoped for. i reluctantly put my hope for yellow watermelon aside for another year.

happily, that year was this one. a few weeks ago, kim o’donnell again blogged about the joys of yellow watermelon. working out of the divine david leibovitz’s perfect scoop, she experimented with making sorbet syrups and freezing them as popsicles. my obsession returned with a vengeance. best of all, i was once again headed for fresh fruit haven on long island, where farm stands dot route 27 all the way out to montauk. that first weekend, the kickoff weekend for my summer of gelato, i found a basket full of yellow watermelons right next to the sugar babies. i cradled it all the way home and immediately set to making kim’s (and david’s) sorbetto.

unfrotunately, the freezer had other plans and declined to properly freeze my ice cream bowl. undaunted, i took the mixture home and spent half a week looking for popsicle molds. i finally found them on thursday, and froze my pops straight away.

still, even with this pseudo-success, i was unsatisfied. what i really wanted was to make a proper sorbetto and serve it as part of our sunday lunch. on sundays in sagaponack, dad grills up “lamburgers” instead of hamburgers and i was convinced that a light watermelon sorbetto would be the perfect compliment to this relatively heavy midday meal.

this weekend, the pressure was on, because i was in the presence of relative strangers including--gulp--my dad’s friend scott who happens to be a four-star chef. the ice cream maker was still broken, but i had learned my lesson and started early enough to let a granita freeze instead of depending on churning for a timely sorbet. i boiled the syrup, threw in a squeeze of lime juice and a schlug from a bottle of grey goose. the ice crystals in my first granita were perhaps too large, but i shredded everything adequately and felt no shame as i appropriated david’s suggestion of replacing the seeds with mini chocolate chips.

i had saved the rinds from my watermelons and used the round bit as a bowl, and a few side slices as mini plates. i stirred in the chips and capped it off with another round end, and served it at the table. i got ooohs and aahhhhs, even from the chef.

and the granita? it was light and cool, with a perfect smoothness. maybe--just maybe--it had a splash too much lime, but it was, as i had hoped, a perfect compliment to a heavy lunch on a hot summer day.

Watermelon Sorbetto Granita
From "The Perfect Scoop," by David Lebovitz

3 cups watermelon juice -- from about a 3-pound chunk of melon, rind and seeds removed and pureed in a blender or food processor
1/2 cup granulated sugar
pinch salt
1 tablespoon juice of a lime
1-2 tablespoons vodka (optional)
1-2 tablespoons mini semisweet chocolate chips

In a small nonreactive saucepan, heat about 1/2 cup of the watermelon juice with the sugar and salt, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir sugared syrup into remaining 2 1/2 cups of watermelon juice in a medium bowl. Mix in lime juice and vodka (if using).

Pour the mixture into a 9x13 glass baking dish, and stir it with a fork every half an hour or so in the freezer until there is a consistency you like. stir in chocolate chips and serve.

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