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Serious Salsa: Watermelon Pico de Gallo

During the warm-weather months, I have a friend who makes this proclamation every afternoon. At the beginning of the summer, one finds it charming. But as we get deeper into the warm-weather season, it's easy to get annoyed by his daily announcement.

That is, annoyed only until you realize he's right--it is watermelon time!

I'm a latecomer to watermelon love. Sure, no summer outdoor feast is complete without big wedges of watermelon piled high on the picnic table. But I can't eat these because I'm something of a mess, and I know that more watermelon will end up on my clothes and on my face than in my mouth. And really, I'm not that big of a fan, as its flavor doesn't seem to go beyond simple sweetness.

One day, however, I was introduced to the concept of savory watermelon. And I was hooked.

Watermelon salad--usually paired with salty feta or cotija cheese--has become quite popular in recent years, and for good reason. The pairing of the salt with the sweet gives the watermelon a bit of flavor while maintaining its cool and refreshing nature. I love it.

To celebrate my newfound watermelon love, I find myself making watermelon pico de gallo, using the watermelon as a stand-in for tomatoes, which aren't quite ripe here in the Northeast. I mix it up with all the pico de gallo usual suspects: red onions, Serrano chiles and cilantro. I also like to throw in some radishes for a crisp, sharp bite. I add plenty of salt and black pepper, and have been known to sprinkle some cotija cheese on top as well.

But my latest addition to my watermelon pico de gallo is ham. Is it strange to add meat to salsa? Perhaps. But is it delicious? Yes, it most definitely is.

This salsa perks up shrimp, freshens fish tacos, and can even be eaten straight from the bowl with a spoon. If you can find watermelon with seeds, I would use that, even though it's a bit more work. I'm of the old-fashioned conviction that watermelon with seeds tastes better. That said, if you can only find seedless watermelon, your salsa will definitely not suffer.

And I bet after you give this pico de gallo a try, you, too will be saying, "Ladies and gentlemen, it's watermelon time!"

About the author: Lisa Fain is a seventh-generation Texan who now hangs her hat in New York City. To keep in touch with her roots, she writes and photographs the food blog Homesick Texan.

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