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The Spicy-Sweet Summer Dessert For All Your Cookouts

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This article is brought to you by our friends at Electrolux as part of an ongoing series focusing on seasonal ingredients. Today: Watermelon gets spicy, and a little boozy, for the summer.

Watermelon is king where I come from. In Southern Indiana, the long, sticky summers revolve around this melon; there's never a meal without those vibrant green, pink, and black-flecked wedges. And it's true the rest of the year, too: Every August in my hometown, there's a watermelon festival, where Miss Watermelon is crowned, but there's also a "Watermelon Drop" to stand in for the Times Square ball on New Year's Eve.

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Wedges on wedges on wedges.
Wedges on wedges on wedges. Photo by James Ransom

Six percent of the country's watermelons are grown in the state of Indiana—quite an output for a small state. But despite a childhood flush with this fruit, I was a hard sell on it. It was pink (I was a tomboy), it was weird to chew (I had a thing with texture), and there was just so much of it (enough already!).

Photo by Emiko Davies

This skepticism endured through my teens and 20s, as I worked hard to avoid the fruit that everyone I know loved. I smiled and said "No, thank you" at cookouts, even when people who learned where I grew up were incredulous about the rejection ("How can you not like watermelon!?" they'd say). I became so steadfast in my feelings that I would refuse it on principle, even though a small part of me started to wonder, "Might I actually enjoy it?"

Give your fruit some grill marks.
Give your fruit some grill marks. Photo by Mark Weinberg

Things changed dramatically (and instantly) when I was presented a slice as complimentary dessert at Lucali, our local pizza joint, one sweltering evening last summer. I immediately grabbed it and started nibbling at the edge, the sweet juices a welcome cool-off. My husband stared at me peculiarly: But by the time I heard his "You don't like watermelon, remember?" there was little left but rind.

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More: Hold it! Don't toss those rinds—here (and here) are a few ways to use them.

So much for sticking to your morals. I was now in an exploratory phase with watermelon. "Finally!" I'd like to think my childhood friends would react if I told them today.

Grilled Watermelon with Tequila
Grilled Watermelon with Tequila

And when I tried this grilled variation, it solidified the deal. I was a full-blown, true-blue watermelon-lover.

A quick dip in tequila-lemon marinade, a sprinkle of salt and chili powder, and a short visit to the grill pan (or over hot coals) produces a spicy-sweet dessert that holds up on the plate without resting too heavy in your stomach. And while this recipe calls for grilling the watermelon only on one side, which adds more than enough smoky flavor, I think you could do both for extra pizzazz.

Add a dollop of lime-cilantro crème fraîche—or don't, because the watermelon turns out that good—and serve it up at the next cookout you're at. Or just grill a couple pieces for yourself on a weeknight, sit it atop some greens, and call it dinner.

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Grilled Watermelon with Tequila

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Serves 4
  • 4 pieces watermelon
  • 2 shots premium tequila
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 teaspoons chili powder (Ancho works great)
  • 8 ounces crème fraîche
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped

This article was brought to you by Electrolux, Food52's test kitchen partner. Electrolux is all about great taste and the appliances to help you make beautiful meals in your own kitchen. Learn more here.

Tags: electrolux, watermelon, tequila