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Watermelon stars in spinach and pomegranate salad, chutney and green smoothie

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Watermelon needn't be reserved for eating out of hand or for dessert. You can enjoy the fruit in appetizers, salads and main courses too.

Don't overlook the watermelon rind, which is regarded as a delicacy by some. In China, for instance, it’s used in stir-fries like a vegetable. The first cookbook published in the U.S. in 1776 contained a recipe for watermelon rind pickles. Below is a recipe for chutney that incorporates the rind.

Watermelon Pomegranate Toss

This salad supplies more than half your day's need for the B vitamin folate, the entire day's need for vitamin A, and hefty doses of vitamin C, iron, magnesium, calcium and antioxidants. It is also rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, two compounds shown to protect eyes from vision loss.

Dressing

250 ml (1 cup) pomegranate juice

15 ml (1 tbsp) balsamic or pomegranate vinegar

22 ml (1 1/2 tbsp) orange zest

15 ml (1 tbsp) agave syrup

1 small shallot, minced

0.5 ml (1/8 tsp) stone-ground mustard

125 ml (1/2 cup) extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Salad

2 l (8 cups) baby spinach (one 175-g/6-oz pkg)

175 ml (3/4 cup) diced red onion

500 ml (2 cups) diced watermelon (place on paper towel to drain excess fluid)

1 pkg (175 g/6 oz) fresh raspberries

125 ml (1/2 cup) pomegranate seeds

Dressing: In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, place juice and simmer until reduced to about 45 ml (3 tbsp) and liquid is a thick syrup. Set aside. When cool, add remaining dressing ingredients. Whip. Set aside to allow flavours to blend. Makes about 175 ml (3/4 cup).

Salad: In a large serving bowl, place spinach. Top with onion, watermelon, raspberries and pomegranate seeds. Divide among 4 salad plates and drizzle with dressing.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 443 calories; 29.6 g total fat (4 g saturated fat, 0 trans fat); 34.6 g carbohydrate; 6.6 g fibre; 25.3 g sugars; 4 g protein; 59 mg sodium.

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Grilled Thai Chicken

This dish is low in fat and calories and packed with flavour. Serve it with basmati rice, a tossed salad and Watermelon Rind Chutney (recipe follows).

Chicken

1 can (400 ml/13 1/2 oz) light coconut milk

2 garlic cloves, minced

22 ml (1 1/2 tbsp) minced fresh ginger

15 ml (1 tbsp) lemon grass paste

15 ml (1 tbsp) fish sauce

10 ml (2 tsp) curry powder

Dash red pepper flakes

10 ml (2 tsp) sugar

75 ml (1/3 cup) minced fresh cilantro

4 skinned and boned chicken breasts (cut into strips for satay skewers)

Wooden skewers (soak in water for at least 30 minutes)

Vegetable oil, for grilling

Satay: In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients except chicken breasts over medium-high heat. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Score chicken breasts to allow more flavour to penetrate into meat. In a large self-sealing plastic bag, place chicken strips and pour in cool marinade. Seal. Distribute marinade well, covering chicken. Place on a plate and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Thread chicken onto soaked skewers just before you are ready to grill.

Heat grill, brushing surface with a little vegetable oil to keep chicken from sticking. Place marinated chicken on hot grill, brushing with leftover marinade the first few times you turn it. Chicken is ready when meat inside is opaque and can be easily sliced. (Alternatively, this can be cooked in a frying pan or baked in the oven.)

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 325 calories; 8.4 g total fat (3.4 g saturated fat, 0 trans fat); 5.6 g carbohydrate; 0.5 g fibre; 3.2 g sugars; 52.5 g protein; 571 mg sodium.

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Watermelon Rind Chutney

This chutney recipe is an excellent way to use watermelon rind which many consider waste. It's easy to make but tastes best when prepared in advance. It's delicious with Grilled Thai Chicken. Extra chutney can be used to complement a cheese board or to top sausages or pork.

1 l (4 cups) watermelon rind (fruit and outer green skin removed and cut into 1-cm/1/2-inch pieces)

250 ml (1 cup) apple cider vinegar

125 ml (1/2 cup) sugar

50 ml (1/4 cup) minced fresh ginger

15 ml (1 tbsp) minced garlic

Salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, place all ingredients. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until rind is tender and translucent and liquid is syrupy, about 45 minutes. Let chutney cool, uncovered, then refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days to let flavours mellow.

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Super Green Detox Smoothie

Gochujang is a Korean hot chili paste made from red chili powder, rice powder, powdered fermented soybeans and salt. It is finding its way into Canadian kitchens. This smoothie combines vitamin- and antioxidant-rich watermelon with super-nutritious greens like kale, mint and parsley. Because it's satisfying it helps curb hunger.

750 ml (3 cups) watermelon cubes

50 ml (1/4 cup) fresh parsley

500 ml (2 cups) packed kale

50 ml (1/4 cup) fresh mint leaves

10 ml (2 tsp) green tea powder

10 ml (2 tsp) gochujang paste

45 ml (3 tbsp) pineapple juice concentrate

1/2 avocado, peeled and pitted

In a blender, place watermelon, then add remaining ingredients on top. Start blending slowly until watermelon is liquefied, then increase speed. Blend for 1 to 2 minutes.

Makes 750 ml (3 cups) or 3 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 151 calories; 5.5 g total fat (0 g saturated fat, 0.8 trans fat); 24.4 g carbohydrate; 6.4 g fibre; 13.6 g sugars; 5.2 g protein; 131 mg sodium.

Source: National Watermelon Promotion Board, watermelon.org.

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