Sometimes you pick a perfect watermelon:  firm, juicy, sweetness dripping from every piece.  Sometimes the melon could use a little bit of help.  Or sometimes you just want a little variety in the flavor department.

Several years ago I found a recipe for a lemon-and-mint-infused syrup to pour over watermelon, or over a mixture of watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew.  It took a few hours to make the syrup, though.  Now that I have essential oils on hand, the flavor base takes almost no time at all!

Citrus-Mint Watermelon Salad
(enough syrup for 4-8 lbs melon while weighed with the rinds still on)

1/4 c. sugar (OR 3 Tbsp. honey)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1-3 drops mint essential oil (1 for subtle flavor, 3 for very noticeable)
6 drops any combination of citrus oils (lime, orange, lemon, grapefruit... I used 3 drops lime oil, 3 drops grapefruit oil)

Stir together the sugar and lemon juice; bring to a boil, stirring just until sugar is dissolved.  If using honey, there is no need to heat it; just stir the honey and lemon together.
Let the syrup cool slightly (if the sugar version), then add mint and citrus oils.

Pour over cut-up melon- plain watermelon or a combination of melons- and stir well to coat.

This would make a fun Fourth of July salad if you added some fresh blueberries to the watermelon.  

BONUS:  the juice left in the bottom is delicious plain (you might prefer it diluted with some water) or added to smoothies.

Which one you make depends on the noodles you use.  What's pictured is technically neither, but is what I grew up calling 'chow mein'.  I think if you add the chow mein noodles, that then it is.  "Mein" means 'noodles', "lo" means "tossed", and "chow" means "fried.  Got it?   However you make the veggies & sauce, you can serve it with rice, cooked noodles, or fried noodles.    A package or two of Ramen works here, too: cook it for Lo Mein, or crumble the uncooked noodles and serve them as a crunchy topper.

During my senior year in high school, it occurred to me that I'd soon be in charge of feeding myself, and recipes would sure come in handy.  I asked my mom if she would compile her recipes for me, as a graduation present.   

She did it: a plastic 3x5 card file box filled with recipes for what we'd eaten most often during the past couple decades.  She must have typed during the day while I was at school; I don't remember seeing her work on it.  She fit it inbetween raising seven children, tending a huge garden, canning, two preschoolers still at home, serving on our town's volunteer fire department, and taking EMT classes. And then she typed them all up again for the next siblings to graduate.  Only that time, she bought a computer!

We didn't have a computer that first time around.  Mom typed every one of those recipes, inserting each card by hand into just the right spot in the typewriter.  Every now and then, a card has a little bit of White-Out on it underneath a letter.  You can't buy a cookbook as valuable as that. 

Some recipes were more about instruction than quantity.  This is one of them.  My addition to it are what's in parenthesis.

Chow Mein

Take any cooked meat that is chopped or ground (1-2 cups, burger, beef, chicken, turkey, pork, crab...).  Chop about a cup of celery (2 stalks) and cook in about 2 cups of water (simmer in a skillet).  Drain liquid from a (14 oz. or bigger) can of Chinese vegetables and add to celery.  Make this thick with about 1/4 c. cornstarch which has been made into a paste then gradually added to celery and water (mix 1/4 c. water with the cornstarch until smooth, then stir into the vegetables).  Cook (boil) until clear, stirring often.  Add cooked meat, vegetables and heat well.  Add soy sauce to taste.  Serve over hot rice and sprinkle with chow mein noodles.

A little ginger is good in this, as is 1-2 Tbsp. vinegar with 2-3 Tbsp. brownYou can add any other vegetables you like when cooking the celery... the version in the photo used a cup or two of diced & peeled watermelon rind, plus a handful of baby carrots, sliced,  that had started to dry out.  Chow Mein is like soup that way:  see what vegetables are starting to go, or random bits sitting around, and add them right in!  
Crab Salad - with watermelon rind!
To go along with last week's post on cutting a watermelon, here's something to take it a little farther!

 Most everyone has seen recipes for watermelon rind pickles- but is the rind edible for anything else? 

YES!  And since it can make up 25-45% of the total melon weight, eating it makes your money go further.

You can even eat the green part, though it's tough.  I prefer removing it.  If you use it, at least make sure it's been washed.  It is, after all, the part that was sitting on the ground and then handled by everyone else. 

The lighter green part can be eaten fresh, or cooked.  It has a high water content, a good fiber content, and a little Vitamin C and Vitamin B-6.  It also has a compound that converts to the amino acid arginine, and current research indicates it may help relax blood vessels.   When fresh, it's somewhat like a really firm cucumber.  You can use it in place of cucumbers, chopped apples, fresh zucchini, or celery.  It doesn't have as much flavor, so if that matters, you might want to increase any flavorings or spices in the recipe.  For instant, if you use watermelon rind in place of celery, it would be tasty to add a little celery seed or celery salt.  If you use it in place of apple, you might want to add a little honey and lemon juice. 

When it's cooked, it resembles (cooked) zucchini or apples.  There's a recipe for a watermelon rind stir-fry at Allrecipes.  Or maybe try Watermelon Boats on the Grill (substitute a slab of rind for a half zucchini.) What else could you use it in?  Think about all the recipes you use zucchini or yellow summer squash, apples, celery, cucumber, or other bland vegetables.   There is actually an entire website devoted to watermelon rind recipes!  It's -what else?-   A friend of mine made the Watermelon Rind KimChee and loved it.  (seehere for a follow-up post on it.)

Meanwhile, here's something from my house the other day- I didn't have celery for my pasta salad, so instead threw in some diced watermelon rind!  I weighed the melon and its parts: out of a 16-lb watermelon, 4.5 lbs of its weight was rind.  Just so you know.

Crab/Krab Salad

1 lb. seashell pasta
2-3 Tbsp. pickle juice or cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil (I prefer olive oil or coconut oil)
1 lb. crab or imitation, flaked
1/2 onion, chopped or pureed (for kids!)
1-2 c. grapes
1-2 c. chopped watermelon rind (OR use cucumbers or celery)
3/4 tsp. salt
pepper to taste

Cook and drain the pasta.  Add pickle juice or vinegar, along with the oil, to the hot pasta (it soaks in better, resulting in better flavor.)  Add crab, onion, grapes, watermelon rind, and salt.  Stir well, add pepper to taste, and add more salt if you want it.

Cover and chill.
A while ago, we had dinner with one of my husband's sisters.    Jeanne, who has eleven children, knows a thing or two about quickly preparing food.  We had a couple watermelons to cut up, and I watched in amazement as she cubed it a way I'd never seen before.  It was quick, the melon held still while she sliced, and it could all be done with a chef's knife.  I used to always need both a chef's knife AND a paring knife.  
Her way's much better!