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Refreshing salad for a warm day

Watermelon, peppers and lime make a great summer salad. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)
Recipe: A pop of heat combines with cool watermelon

Watermelon is an under-appreciated savory ingredient. Standard green salads are great, but you can hardly call them refreshing. Toss in some cold watermelon chunks, and wow. (It is a relative of cucumber, after all.)

This salad takes things a step further by putting the watermelon front and center, and then adding ingredients that complement it. Looking at the ingredients list, you might be reminded of salsa, but there’s not nearly the chopping involved.
Some of the salad ingredients. Note how the melon is cut.

I adapted this from an Epicurious recipe that includes jicama. I’m not a big fan of jicama, which strikes me as chalky even when it's fresh.  I substituted the crispest pieces from a head of romaine lettuce. Lots of crunch without the flavorless chunks of jicama getting in the way.

This is ideal to serve at the 4th of July cookout as a contrast to the potato salad. Any leftovers hold up well in the refrigerator, too.

Spiced watermelon salad
Serves 4-6

I ngredients:

One 3- to 4-pound seedless watermelon, preferably chilled if serving immediately
4 or 5 romaine lettuce leaves, washed and dried — the crispest ones in the head or in the package
1 large or 2 small jalapeño peppers, thinly sliced (remove the seeds if you like it less spicy)
1 or 2 scallions, sliced on diagonal, white and light green parts only
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Coarse sea salt, to taste


This watermelon is a few ounces under 4 pounds. For reference, the scale's
diameter is 7.5 inches.
Cut watermelon in half, then in quarters. Slice off and discard the rind on one of the quarters. (Rind is great compost material — just saying.) Cut off shards (thin, not chunks) of watermelon, arranging them on a large plate or serving dish. You may not need all the watermelon, depending on its size and the size of your serving dish, so work with just one quarter at a time.

Break up the romaine leaves and scatter them over the watermelon. Toss the other ingredients together in a small bowl and drizzle the mixture over the watermelon and romaine pieces. Serve immediately or cover and chill until serving time.

Note: Want to know how to choose a good little watermelon? The ones at the farmers markets usually are ready to go, but the watermelons at the supermarket are a mixed bag. Look for:
1. A melon heavy for its size with a dull, not shiny, skin. It should a regular shape, whether round or somewhat oval.
2. A "field patch" of creamy white to yellow on one side, with yellow being best. This means the melon ripened on the ground. Avoid any without a patch.
3. Look for light scarring or dots on the melon. This is from bees, who know sweet.
4. Tiny dried sugar deposits on the stem end also indicate sweetness.

(Thumping a small watermelon is almost impossible, so leave that for the big melons.)


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.

To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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