Watermelon with arak and basil

We have a watermelon problem. You see, we went a little watermelon crazy at the farmer’s market. Watermelon is one of those things I can’t really buy on my own — it’s too heavy. But here I was with my husband at the Tel Aviv port, and here was a stand selling all sorts of watermelons in all different colors — yellow, orange, red and more.

They were 20 each, or 2 for 25 — which sounded expensive, until we realized we could choose whichever watermelons we wanted for that price. So we picked out the largest ones we could find — two 8-kilo watermelons, a yellow one and an orange one. As we lugged them off, we happily calculated what a great deal we’d gotten — less than 1.50 a kilo! And what unusual varieties!

Then, reality hit: What were we going to do with 16 kilos of watermelon?

First thing we did was clear out the entire top shelf of the refrigerator — the watermelons were too large to fit anywhere else. Second thing we did was slice one open and dig in. Turns out that two determined adults can make quick work of a cool, refreshing melon.

Now, watermelon is great on its own, but sometimes it’s even better with a little seasoning. Traditionally, watermelon is eaten here with Bulgarian cheese, a salty cow’s milk version of feta, but that’s not so much to my liking.

Instead, I scooped the watermelon into a bowl with a melon baller, and drizzled arak on top. The combination added a lovely layer of flavor — I don’t like licorice, mind you — that made regular watermelon pale in comparison. A few chopped basil leaves complimented the flavor of the arak.

That’s the orange watermelon in the photo, by the way — not some other form of melon. The bowl is one of my more recent creations.

For a medium-sized bowl’s worth:

  • 500 grams watermelon (about 3 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons arak or another anise-flavored liquor (This is enough to add a layer of flavor. If you want boozy watermelon, add more.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped basil leaves (10-12 leaves

Prep time: 5 minutes

Slice the watermelon into chunks with a knife or a melon baller (this will enable you to measure it in cups). Toss with the liquor and the basil, and let sit for a few minutes so that the flavors can blend (the alcohol is likely to pool at the bottom of the bowl). Mix again and serve.

For the peels:

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