Sautéd Watermelon Rinds with Tequila & Ancho Chili Olive Oil

Many years ago I had a roommate named Lisa in Berkeley. Lisa, who grew up in a simple Mid-Western society, believed in living with “as little waste as possible”. I found her way of living very inspiring. Under her influence, I started recycling everything and using food compost, instead of filling up my garbage bags. Her practicality and frugality also taught me to get rid of “unnecessary” things that would clog up the house, as well as creatively reuse things I would normally throw away. Last April, while visiting the Amish village in Pennsylvania, I discovered that the Amish, who also embraced the philosophy of “no waste in life” like Lisa did, were pickling watermelon rinds to eat. Until that visit, I had no idea that watermelon rinds were not only edible but also had great nutrients. I couldn’t wait to try making something interesting with the watermelon rinds when I return to California.

Now that the Summer is here, thirst-quenching, juicy watermelons are everywhere. Last week, after happily de-fruiting a 14 lbs watermelon, I stir-fried its rinds, instead of throwing them away. Many of my friends got to try it for their first time when I took it to a Memorial Day weekend BBQ/picnic. Thankfully, they loved it. This refreshing side dish is awesome for a summer picnic or BBQ. Next time when you finish up a watermelon, try my stir-fried watermelon rinds recipe.

First, de-fruit and de-skin the green outer parts of the watermelon and shred them in a food processor. Next, preheat 2 Tablespoons 7th taste Ancho Chili Olive Oil in a big pot and sauté 2 garlic cloves (crushed), 4 green onions (chopped) and a thumb size ginger (chopped). Then, add the shredded watermelon rinds to the pot and continue to cook. Next, season with 2 Tablespoons tequila, juice from 1 lime, 1 Tablespoon honey, 1 Tablespoon cumin seeds and sea salt to taste. Mix everything with a wooden spoon and simmer with cover until the watermelon rinds turn tender. Before serving, drizzle a bit of ancho chili olive oil.

Watermelon rinds are like a big white canvas waiting for a great artist to paint a world-class masterpiece on it. Tasting like a blend of squash, carrots and cucumber with a hint of sweet watermelon, watermelon rinds are great “vegetables” to season with whatever inspiring seasoning mix you can think of. I like my simple seasoning mix on the watermelon rinds, because this delicious sauté has a smoky, earthy and nutty taste to it with a balanced sweetness and sourness. The crunchy texture of the watermelon rinds is also nicely accentuated by spicy, peppery cumin seeds with their distinctly robust aroma. Yum. How wonderful it is to turn this watermelon “compost” into a delicious Summer side dish. I hope you enjoy this recipe. Happy cooking!

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