Watermelon has made impressive inroads on menus, launching onto the scene in the watermelon-feta salad, but now seeing more creative menu play. On a recent tour hosted by the National Watermelon Promotion Board (NWPB), chefs and media were treated to modern applications, including compressed watermelon, featured at two Oakland, Calif., restaurants. The technique ensures a rich, clean profile and allows for flavor-building enhancements.
Vacuum sealing is the go-to method for NWPB consulting chef Dave Woolley, who recommends sections from 3/4-in. to 1-1/2-in. thick. He uses a range of ingredients to infuse added flavor, from smoked onions and/or garlic to charred herbs like thyme and rosemary, or spices like cumin and coriander. Calabrian, Aleppo and Espelette chiles work well, as do honey powder or vinegar powder (powders provide flavor without added moisture).
Woolley cautions against overdoing the additions. “I infuse flavors to highlight and showcase the watermelon, not to overwhelm it,” he says, noting the vast range of flavors that complement watermelon.