the high noon: golden watermelon, ginger, basil + tequila

golden watermelon cocktail on millys-kitchen.com

I just got home from 5 days spent camping on Orcas Island with my mom!

I briefly thought about just posting the outdoorsy, pacific-northwest-perfect highlight reel of our trip: sleeping under a twinkling night sky, hiking along crystalline mountain lakes and watching baby harbor seals frolic in the bay. (True story.)

But in the spirit of realness I try to bring to this blog each week, I figured I should also tell you how I arrived on the island so tired and tense that I promptly got in a mega-argument with my mom, during which I behaved like a total ass! And how for the first two days I felt an overpowering urge to check my phone despite the complete lack of signal at our campsite. I kept reaching for my back pocket and my useless phone--a digital phantom limb that refused to stop itching. 

golden watermelon cocktail on millys-kitchen.com

I should also probably disclose how at the soaking tubs perched above a peaceful, wooded cove, I listened to a group of twenty-somethings drone on about the hipness of their lives and how “tight” Copenhagen is until I wanted to rip my own ears off. When their conversation turned to spontaneous human combustion, I decided I couldn’t take it any longer and proceeded to lecture them on the finer points of spa etiquette like a deranged schoolmarm. (I fully expect to look back on that day as the line demarcating the beginning of my old age.)

golden watermelon cocktail on millys-kitchen.com

But the good news, and the point of this post, is that I eventually I stopped checking my phone and wanting to argue with my mom over nothing and lecturing millennials for not properly appreciating the glory of the Pacific Northwest landscape. And when I did, I found myself able to slip into the easy, camp-side spirit I’d been craving.

I was thrilled to be dressed in my most comfortable, cozy clothing. I skipped wearing makeup and didn’t attempt to corral my curls into any sort of order. I swam and picnicked and played cards. Mom and I explored the villages on the island. We bought tomatoes and tiny, sweet peaches at the farmers market. We watched the full moon rise and set over the bay. 

At the 11th hour, one week before I pack my bags and head back to Europe to lead another culinary tour, I found my way to that carefree, summer state of mind. 

golden watermelon cocktail on millys-kitchen.com

I’ve created this cocktail to help you reach the same state of summertime nirvana. It’s called The High Noon, both for it’s sunny color and to evoke the pleasure of basking in the August sunshine. It’s origins are accidental: I was trying to buy a regular old red watermelon to make cocktails for my pop-up dinner earlier this month and discovered I’d brought home a golden watermelon instead. When I saw that Sherrie from With Food + Love was organizing another #drinkthesummer event this year, I knew my contribution would involve that gorgeous yellow melon!

golden watermelon cocktail on millys-kitchen.com

I know I posted a salted watermelon cocktail last year. But I can’t help it--salty watermelon is one of my favorite summer flavors! So I’m back with a cocktail featuring watermelon, a ginger-basil simple syrup, a splash of tequila and a chile-salt rim to keep things interesting. It’s sweet, sour, tangy and a little spicy. Just like summer.


golden watermelon cocktail on millys-kitchen.com

I’m thrilled to be part of the #drinkthesummer event! I loved tinkering in the kitchen to create this cocktail recipe. But I’m even more excited to try out some of the other recipes created by the bloggers participating this year! 

Here is a list of all the summer party people. Check out their seasonal cocktails and mocktails--hopefully you’ll find a new favorite blogger or two to follow! 

Boozy
With Food + Love | Basil Fig Smash
A Little Saffron | Beach Bum's Rum
A Thought For Food | Tarragon Tequlia Swizzle
Downshiftology | Limoncello Prosecco with Blueberries and Thyme
Heart of a Baker | Green Tea Mint Cooler

Hungry Girl por Vida | Whisky Peach Alexander
The Green Life | Spiced Plum, Fig & Kombucha Cocktail
Hummingbird High | Watermelon and Mint Agua Fresca
Floating Kitchen | Peach Sun Tea and Bourbon Cocktail
Beard and Bonnet | Melon Mojito

EGD | Backyard Peach Sweet Tea
Appeasing a Food Geek | Basil and Black Pepper Gin Sour
Vegetarian Ventures | Garden Tonic Punch
Nosh and Nourish | Mango Margaritas with Chile Lime Salted Rims
Domesticate ME! | Watermelon-Basil Mezcal Margarita

The Foodie Nurse | Husk Cherry Margarita
my name is yeh | Choose Your Own Adventure Bloody Marys
Sevengrams | Cucumber, Gin and Chartreuse Cocktail
Wicked Spatula | Coconut Gin and Tonic
Eat Boutique | Sbagliatos and Homemade Sweet Vermouth

Nutritionist in the Kitch | Healthy Muddled Blackberry Pina Coladas
Chocolate + Marrow | Pequito Verdecito
The Solstice Table | Jalapeño Watermelon Cooler
HonestlyYUM | Watermelon, Fresh Herbs, & Sotol Cocktail
Seasonal Cravings | Strawberry Lime Gin Rickey

Salted Plains | Frozen Honeydew Daiquiris
The Broken Bread | Honeydew-Ginger Apricot Mojitos
Fix Feast Flair | Ginger-Berry Splash Cocktail
Turntable Kitchen | Summer Cooler Cocktails, Two Ways
Foolproof Living | Blueberry, Dark Cherry and Calvados Cocktail
Dessert for Two | Salty Melon Slush

 

Non-Boozy
Heartbeet Kitchen | Salty Watermelon Shrub Elixir
TENDING the TABLE | Raspberry and Fig Hibiscus Cooler
Snixy Kitchen | Lavender Earl Gray Blackberry Ice Cream Floats (vegan)
The Bojon Gourmet | Vanilla Rooibos Peach Ice Cream Floats (vegan)
Gratitude and Greens | Hong Kong Style Crushed Watermelon Ice 

My Heart Beets | Spiced Pistachio Shake
rooting the sun | Strawberry Fennel Soda
The Modern Proper | Vanilla Bean, Plum Shrub
Feed Me Phoebe | Watermelon-Cucumber Kombucha Coolers
Gourmande in the Kitchen | Stone Fruit Thyme Shrub Soda

dolly and oatmeal | Cold-Brewed Shiso & Hibiscus Tea Iced Latte
happy hearted kitchen | Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho with Fennel, Orange + Cardamom
I am a Food Blog | Cherry Vanilla Sodas
Tasty Yummies | Fig Vanilla Bean Almond Milk
Let's talk evergreen | Iced Earl Grey Yuanyang With a Hint of Rose

Kale & Caramel | Emerald Beaut Green Spritzer
Earthy Feast | Watermelon Hibiscus Agua Fresca
Now, Forager | Sparkling Plumcot and Purple Basil Shrubs
The Pig & Quill | Brown Sugar Blueberry Pie Shakes
Well and Full | Peach Bubble Tea

Sweetish Co | The Best Frozen Hot Chocolate
holly & flora | Spiced Pineapple Shrub Sparklers with Black Tea + Coconut
Pure Ella | Fresh Mint Tea

A huge thanks to Sherrie from With Food + Love for organizing. Now jump on into this virtual cocktail party and shake up some seasonal, boozy (and non-boozy!) goodness. Drink responsibly and #drinkthesummer!


golden watermelon cocktail on millys-kitchen.com

Golden Watermelon Cocktails with Ginger, Basil + Tequila

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2-inch knob fresh ginger, thinly sliced (no need to peel)
  • ½ cup loosely-packed basil leaves
  • ¼ to ½ small seedless golden watermelon (or red watermelon)
  • 2 tablespoons flaky sea salt or kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon chile flakes (I used Portuguese piri piri)
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • ¼ cup silver tequila
  • 4 small stems fresh basil, to garnish

*Notes: Unless you plan to make a lot of these cocktails, you’ll have some simple syrup left over. It will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for about a month. Use leftover syrup to flavor lemonade, in sorbet and popsicles, or stir a little bit into a fruit salad to kick it up a notch.

- Straining the watermelon is optional. It makes for a clearer cocktail, but you can skip this step if you like.

- The watermelon juice will keep, covered, in the fridge for 4-5 days.

golden watermelon cocktail on millys-kitchen.com

First, make the ginger-basil simple syrup: Combine the sugar, water, ginger and basil in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil until the sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Set aside to steep for at least 30 minutes. Pour the simple syrup through a fine mesh sieve, pressing on the solids to get out as much liquid as possible. Discard basil and ginger and set syrup aside to cool completely. 

While the syrup is cooling, make the watermelon juice. Cut the rind from the watermelon and cut it into chunks. Puree in a food processor or blender then strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Do not press on the solids with a spoon or you’ll force them through the sieve. Repeat until you have 1 ¼ cups strained watermelon juice.

Next, stir the salt and chile together in a small bowl and set aside.

To assemble the cocktail: Pour some of the honey simple syrup into a small, shallow bowl or a small plate with a lip. Transfer the salt to a similar plate. Dip the rim of 4 8-oz cocktail glasses into the simple syrup then place the rims the glasses in the chile salt and turn to coat evenly. Set aside

Shake the golden watermelon juice, ¼ cup of the simple syrup, the lime juice and the tequila over ice for 30 seconds (you will need to do this in 2 batches unless you have a large shaker). Strain into the prepared glasses. Top with ice to fill the glasses. Garnish with the basil and serve.

Makes 4 cocktails.

golden watermelon cocktail on millys-kitchen.com

my kind of summer fun

pop up dinner via millys-kitchen.com
pop up dinner via millys-kitchen.com

I’m going to level with you. 

After all my talk about summer fun and more play in the month of August, I’ve been dragging through this week like the walking dead. Last Saturday I hosted the pop-up dinner I’ve been telling you about. It was a huge pleasure to have such a diverse and interesting group of people gathered around my table. And this first big party felt like the perfect way to baptize our new house.

pop up dinner via millys-kitchen.com
pop up dinner via millys-kitchen.com
pop up dinner via millys-kitchen.com

Kyle and I prepared a table for twenty in the back yard with white linens, dahlias from the farmers market and vintage silver and glassware I’ve been collecting for over a decade.

We served radishes with spicy tuna butter and salted watermelon cocktails to start. (We Seattleites are notoriously socially awkward, so I make a point of starting all my dinners with a little kick to get the conversation flowing!)

pop up dinner via millys-kitchen.com
pop up dinner via millys-kitchen.com
pop up dinner via millys-kitchen.com

Then there was king salmon crudo with pickled blackberries and creme fraiche. Grilled zucchini with homemade ricotta, honey and toasted barley. Smoky lamb on a bed of tomatoes and grilled cucumbers with a killer walnut-herb sauce. And we finished the evening with an Eton mess featuring fragrant grilled peaches, peach sorbet and pistachio ice cream. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pretty proud of the meal. 

pop up dinner via millys-kitchen.com
pop up dinner via millys-kitchen.com
pop up dinner via millys-kitchen.com
pop up dinner via millys-kitchen.com

But the best part came late in the evening, after dessert had been served and the coffee had been poured. I stood back and just watched our guests enjoying themselves. Their faces glowed in the candlelight as they talked and laughed. I floated around taking photos and catching bits of conversation as they drifted up into the summer sky. 

And felt an immense sense of satisfaction. 

pop up dinner via millys-kitchen.com
pop up dinner via millys-kitchen.com
pop up dinner via millys-kitchen.com

Earlier in the evening my friend Sharon had explained how she feels out of balance if she goes too long without cooking. How returning to her kitchen and the meditative act of preparing food steadies her somehow. I told her it was the same for me.

But later I realized that wasn’t quite right. Cooking does restore me. My kitchen is a space to create and play and nourish myself. But I start to feel a little off-kilter if I go too long without cooking for others. When I worked in restaurants, this was a daily occurrence and I took it for granted. Now that I mainly cook at home, I feel a kind of compulsion to gather people around my table. The longer I resist it, the stronger it gets. Until I find myself planning elaborate Fourth of July barbecues and Moroccan-themed potlucks and five-course pop-up dinners.

pop up dinner via millys-kitchen.com
pop up dinner via millys-kitchen.com
pop up dinner via millys-kitchen.com

That moment standing there watching the smiles pass over our guests' faces was worth all the planning and shopping and schlepping and prepping it took to make the dinner happen. It was worth spending last Sunday on the couch too tired to do anything more than watch Parade’s End and order takeout. It was it’s own kind of summer fun. 

It may not have been as relaxing as swimming in Lake Washington, eating ice-cold slices of watermelon and working on my napping skills, but I don’t regret it for a minute. 

pop up dinner via millys-kitchen.com

green bean, tomato and corn salad with serrano vinaigrette

green bean, tomato and corn salad with serrano vinaigrette on millys-kitchen.com
green bean, tomato and corn salad with serrano vinaigrette on millys-kitchen.com

There's a flood of summer produce at the farmers markets this week: peaches, heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn, zucchini of every stripe and color! It’s the arrival of the corn and tomatoes though that signals the peak of summer for me. I think because I grew up in corn country and summer dinners often involved corn on the cob served with a thick pat of butter and salted slabs of tomato from my grandma’s garden.

For all the market treasures they bring, these high summer days also breed a certain anxiety in me. So glorious and so fleeting, the month of August kicks my garden variety FOMO into high gear. What if I don't make bbq ribs? Or see an outdoor movie?! Or go on a picnic?!? I haven't taken a single swim all season and time is running out!!!

green bean, tomato and corn salad with serrano vinaigrette on millys-kitchen.com
green bean, tomato and corn salad with serrano vinaigrette on millys-kitchen.com
green bean, tomato and corn salad with serrano vinaigrette on millys-kitchen.com

Of course, I realize that part of this is simply a reaction to the stress of being an adult with adult responsibilities. (Hello, mortgage!) And part of it is my own unique strain of anxiety. But a good part of this impulse to maximize summer fun comes from the child-like spirit buried (more or less deeply) within us all. 

The rational part of me says I should spend my days in front of my camera/computer/phone/stove developing recipes, shooting for the blog and working on the logistics for my next culinary retreat. The 6-year-old version of me wants to go barefoot all day and eat ice cream cones that drip down my arm in the heat and spend hours splashing around at the pool. 

As much as I sometimes want to ignore that 6-year-old version of me, I think it's important to be reminded that summer only comes once a year and that play is an essential part of creativity and yes, even productivity.

green bean, tomato and corn salad with serrano vinaigrette on millys-kitchen.com
green bean, tomato and corn salad with serrano vinaigrette on millys-kitchen.com

So this week I have a recipe that features my favorite summer produce and is so easy to make it will leave you plenty of time for summer frolicking.

Which is precisely what I intend to do over the next four weeks. This Saturday I’m hosting a pop-up dinner with my friend Kyle (which is essentially a glorified backyard barbeque). Beau and I just booked a spur-of-the-moment glamping weekend on a farm outside Seattle. The week after that, I’ll be camping with my momma on Orcas Island. In between, I plan on taking a dip in Lake Washington, eating ice-cold slices of watermelon, working on my nap game, finishing another novel and dreaming up a super-sexy popsicle flavor combination for hot days.

green bean, tomato and corn salad with serrano vinaigrette on millys-kitchen.com

I've decided to work a little less and play a little more. Which is what the month of August, with all it's sweet produce and bright sunshine was made for.

I think the 6-year-old me would approve.


Green Bean, Tomato and Corn Salad with Serrano Vinaigrette

  • 1 lb tender green beans, stemmed
  • Kosher or sea salt, to taste
  • 2 ears sweet corn, shucked
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup finely minced shallot
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 serrano chile (or to taste), very thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped or sliced basil, cilantro or mint (or a mix)
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled (optional)

*Notes: Having grown up in corn country, I am admittedly something of a corn snob. But please, please, please use the freshest, sweetest corn you can find for this recipe. It makes all the difference. Corn starts converting its sugars to starch as soon as it's picked, so freshness is key. I try to buy corn at the farmers market that was picked that morning (ask your farmer). I also don't hesitate to pull back the husk and silk to see how fresh the corn is. You want tight, shiny kernels with no mushy or brown spots. I sometimes even pop a kernel off the cob and taste it to see how sweet the corn is. 

- The green beans and corn can be prepared a day in advance. 

- The vinaigrette will keep, covered and refrigerated for a day or so. It will keep a few days longer if you don’t add the serranos until you dress the salad.

green bean, tomato and corn salad with serrano vinaigrette on millys-kitchen.com

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to the boil. While the water is heating, prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water. 
 
When the water comes to the boil, add the green beans and cook until crisp-tender. (The precise time will vary depending on the size of your beans.) Remove the beans from the water with tongs or a slotted spoons and transfer to the ice bath. When beans are completely cooled, remove them from the ice bath and lay them out on a a kitchen towel to dry.

While the beans are cooking, cut the corn from the cobs and set aside. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and set aside.

To make the vinaigrette, combine the lime juice, vinegar, shallot, thyme and a generous pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Add the serrano; taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

To assemble the salad, combine the green beans, corn, tomatoes and half the remaining herbs in a large bowl. Dress with the vinaigrette to taste. Transfer to a serving platter and top with the rest of the herbs and the feta (if using). 

Makes 4-6 servings.

Vinaigrette recipe adapted from Hugh Acheson

green bean, tomato and corn salad with serrano vinaigrette on millys-kitchen.com