There is a reason that watermelon is one of the most popular summer foods on the planet. Rich in vitamins, fiber, antioxidants and amino acids, watermelon is considered a superfood in the world of nutrition.

Even better, with a water content of about 92 percent, making watermelon a summer staple in your diet is an excellent way to ensure that you stay cool, refreshed and, most important, hydrated.

If the weather forecast is correct, we can expect to enjoy a hot and sunny Independence Day weekend, and I am returning to our archives with three of our favorite ways to enjoy this refreshing summer fruit. I hope you will find a new watermelon favorite among these recipes, and I wish you and your family a happy, safe and delicious Fourth of July!

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In a drink

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Fresh watermelon juice is the base for this refreshing cocktail, which also features white rum, vodka, fresh lime juice and club soda, with a festive garnish of sugar and fresh blueberries to give it a patriotic twist.

One batch of this recipe makes about four to six cocktails, and the alcohol can be omitted and enjoyed as a punch-style mocktail.

To make the watermelon juice, fill your blender with watermelon cubes and puree it until it is just liquid, then pass the juice through a strainer to remove any pulp. The juice can be used immediately or refrigerated for up to four days.

Watermelon Firecracker Cocktail or Mocktail

Ingredients:

4 cups cubed watermelon (about 2 cups strained juice)

4 ounces white rum

2 ounces vodka

1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon white sugar

Club soda, for topping off

Sugar and fresh blueberries, to garnish

Directions:

Prepare the garnish in advance: Fill a small plate with sugar; dip the rim of each cocktail glass in the watermelon juice and then the sugar, to line the rim. Fill toothpicks with the fresh blueberries.

Place cubed watermelon in blender and puree until fruit is all liquid. Strain juice through a fine-mesh strainer into a pitcher and discard any pulp. The juice can be used immediately or refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Add rum, vodka, lime juice and sugar and stir until combined; for a kiddie mocktail, simply omit the liquors. Refrigerate mix for up to 24 hours before serving.

To serve, fill sugar-rimmed cocktail glasses with ice, then add watermelon mixture until glass is ¾ full. Top with club soda, garnish with blueberry skewers and enjoy!

In a salad

This salad combines watermelon with bacon and blue cheese for a sweet and savory combination that is always a hit whenever I serve it.

Shallots and fresh herbs, including mint and basil, are added to help bring all the flavors together, and sliced almonds and salty sunflower seeds provide a touch of crunchy texture. Instead of a vinaigrette, the salad is dressed with a drizzle of balsamic reduction for a punch of tangy richness.

Sarah's Bacon, Blue Cheese and Watermelon Salad is a surprising blend of sweet and savory flavors that is always a crowd favorite. Forum file photo
Sarah's Bacon, Blue Cheese and Watermelon Salad is a surprising blend of sweet and savory flavors that is always a crowd favorite. Forum file photo

Bacon, Blue Cheese and Watermelon Salad

Ingredients:

1 whole watermelon, cut into half-inch cubes (about 6 cups)

2 to 3 shallots, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons fresh mint, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons fresh basil, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt

1 pound bacon, cooked and diced into half-inch pieces

4 ounces crumbled blue cheese or Gorgonzola

⅓ cup sliced almonds, toasted

⅓ cup roasted and salted sunflower seeds

2 to 3 tablespoons balsamic reduction

Directions:

To make the balsamic reduction, cook ¼ cup balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over high heat until boiling; reduce heat to low and simmer gently until the vinegar has been reduced by half and a syrupy consistency is achieved, approximately 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the watermelon, sliced shallot, mint, basil, olive oil and salt; toss lightly to combine. Add bacon and blue cheese and gently toss again until mixed.

Transfer to a serving bowl or platter. Drizzle top with balsamic reduction and sprinkle with toasted almonds and sunflower seeds.

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On the grill

Up until a few years ago, I had only enjoyed watermelon in its fresh, raw state and had never thought to actually cook with it. With its high water content, watermelon just did not seem like a good fit for heat of any kind, other than hot summer days. But then I discovered that watermelon can be grilled and my perception of this summertime fruit was forever altered.

The watermelon caramelizes on the grill to draw out its natural sweetness and add a lovely smokiness to the flavor. Gorgonzola brings a lovely creaminess to the grilled melon, and feta would also work well. Prosciutto, an Italian dry cured ham that is paper-thin and wonderfully salty, pairs perfectly with the sweet watermelon and creamy Gorgonzola.

This dish would be perfect as an appetizer or side, especially with grilled red meat like beef or bison.

Grilling is a game changer in this unconventional summer side dish, which features grilled watermelon wedges with Gorgonzola cheese and salty prosciutto. Forum file photo
Grilling is a game changer in this unconventional summer side dish, which features grilled watermelon wedges with Gorgonzola cheese and salty prosciutto. Forum file photo

Grilled Watermelon with Gorgonzola and Prosciutto

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

3 watermelon rounds, quartered into wedges, rinds removed

Olive oil, for brushing melon

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

4 ounces prosciutto, cut lengthwise into ½-inch strips

4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Fresh basil leaves

Balsamic reduction

Directions:

Preheat grill to high heat.

Brush both sides of each watermelon wedge with oil, and then sprinkle 1 side with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Grill watermelon on each side over direct, high heat, until grill marks appear, about 2 minutes per side.

Transfer watermelon to a serving plate; top each wedge with Gorgonzola cheese and a strip of prosciutto, then garnish with fresh basil and drizzle with balsamic reduction. Serve immediately.

Excellent as a side dish with grilled beef or bison, or cut grilled watermelon into smaller pieces and toss with other ingredients to serve as a salad.

Watermelon even works on the grill. Forum file photo
Watermelon even works on the grill. Forum file photo

Balsamic Reduction

Makes: About 3/4 cup

Ingredients:

2 cups regular balsamic vinegar (not the high-end, aged variety)

Directions:

Place the vinegar in a small sauce pot or sauté pan and cook over high heat until it reaches a boil. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer, and cook until the vinegar has been reduced by at least half and a thick, syrupy consistency is achieved, approximately 20 minutes.

To store, refrigerate for up to 1 month. For best results, use a squeeze bottle to create dramatic drizzles when serving.

Recipe Time Capsule:

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Recipes can be found with the article at InForum.com.

“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.