Watermelon, allow me to introduce you to the knife and fork.

I know you are usually eaten on your own - without benefit of silverware or, in many cases, tables and chairs - but the truth is that your pink flesh plays surprisingly well with other ingredients. During the dog days of summer, your candy-like flavor and refreshing texture are a welcome addition to many warm-weather dishes.

Your color and sweetness remind a lot of folks of tomatoes and, in fact, you marry well with tomatoes - as the market salad here demonstrates. I tried my hand at substituting you for tomatoes in various recipes and produced a Caprese salad and an orecchiette with watermelon that, while attractive, were not terribly good. On the other hand, my recipe for a BLW (bacon-lettuce-watermelon) sandwich is a winner.

Cheer up, you are no longer alone.

-Click here to see photos of new recipes for watermelon

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Melon tips

1. Choose a watermelon that is heavy for its size. Don't be bothered by the yellow spot on its surface; that's where it sat on the ground while the rest of the skin turned green.

2. Watermelons can be stored for 7 to 10 days at room temperature; after that they will lose flavor and texture. Once cut, store melons in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

3. Many watermelons sold these days are seedless, but if you buy a seeded one that you want to de-seed, cut it into halves and then each half into 6 to 8 wedges. You'll see the black seeds are all in a curved line parallel to the rind. Just use your finger or a spoon to scoop them out. You can also use this method to remove the little white seeds that afflict "seedless" melons.

 

BLW SANDWICH

Watermelons do a fine job of standing in for tomatoes in this sandwich. To balance their sweetness, I used peppery wild arugula for the lettuce, and plenty of salt and pepper.

4 slices white bread

1 to 2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Large handful arugula or another peppery green such as watercress

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1 large wedge watermelon, sliced about 1/4-inch thick and cut into pieces smaller than the bread

Salt and pepper

6 to 8 strips bacon, fried crisp

 

1. For each sandwich, toast bread and spread mayonnaise on one slice. On top of the mayonnaise place a layer of arugula, then half the slices of watermelon. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the watermelon. Top with strips of bacon and then with the other slice of toast (on which you can also spread mayonnaise). Repeat with second sandwich.

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2. Press sandwiches together and eat with plenty of napkins. Makes 2 sandwiches.

 

SUMMER'S END WATERMELON-PLUS MARKET SALAD

This is an extremely flexible recipe, which is based on the culinary maxim "if it grows together, it goes together." At the end of the summer, farmers markets and farm stands feature watermelons, tomatoes, cucumbers and fresh red onions. Make sure the salad is at least half tomatoes, or else it veers too far into fruit-salad territory.

2 pounds watermelon

2 pounds tomatoes, a few different varieties

3 to 4 cucumbers

1 small red onion (or half a large one)

1 small bunch tarragon or another soft, leafy herb such as savory or basil

Salt and pepper

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 fresh lime or lemon

 

1. Cut the watermelon and the tomatoes into chunks. Peel cucumbers if desired (or use a peeler to make stripes), cut off both ends, and cut in half lengthwise. Use a teaspoon to scoop out the seeds, then cut cucumbers into 1/4-inch slices. Cut onion in half through root end, then slice as thinly as possible. Tear tarragon or savory leaves from their sprigs; for basil, stack leaves on top of one another, roll up and slice thinly.

2. Place watermelon, tomatoes, cucumber, onion and most of the herbs in a large bowl. Season with plenty of salt and pepper and pour in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Cut the lime in half and squeeze one half into the salad. Mix well (use your hands) and taste - you may have to add more salt, pepper, oil or lime juice. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with remaining herbs. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

 

PICKLED WATERMELON RIND

This is a handy recipe to use up leftover watermelon rind. Adapted from David Chang and Peter Meehan's upcoming cookbook "Momofuku" (Potter, $40).

 

Rind of 1 small (41/2 pound) watermelon, with about 1/2 inch red flesh attached, about 6 cups1 1/2 cups rice vinegar

3/4 cup water

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons kosher salt or 1 tablespoon table salt

1 whole star anise

1 thumb-sized knob of fresh ginger, peeled and halved

 

1. Cut rind into wedges. With a vegetable peeler, peel off skin. Cut rind into pieces about half the size of a pad of small Post-its.

2. Combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt, star anise and ginger in a tall, narrow saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add watermelon rind, using a spoon to make sure all rind is submerged. Bring liquid back to a boil and boil for a minute.

3. Transfer rind and liquid to a heatproof container, cool and then refrigerate. These pickles are ready to eat in a couple of hours and will keep for about a week and a half. They start to lose flavor and get too soft after that. Makes about 5 cups.

 

WATERMELON GRANITA

To make granita, Italian ice, simply freeze sweetened fruit juice into ice cubes, then pulse the cubes in the food processor. This recipe, from John Ash's "From the Earth to the Table: John Ash's Wine Country Cuisine" (Chronicle, $24.95) uses the flesh from 1 small watermelon and will make enough granita to serve 8 to 12 people. If you're serving a smaller group, unmold the frozen cubes and place in a resealable plastic bag. Puree as many as you'd like whenever you need granita.

 

1 small watermelon, about 4 1/2 pounds

2 limes

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons grated lime zest

1/4 cup sweet white wine, such as riesling

 

1. Cut melon in half and then cut each half into 6 to 8 wedges. Remove any black seeds that you see. Cut the flesh from the rind (you can use the rind to make the pickle recipe above) and then roughly chop the flesh, removing any remaining black seeds.

2. With a grater, remove the zest from the limes, being careful to avoid the bitter white pith. Cut the limes in half and juice them; you will need about 1/4 cup.

3. In a food processor, puree the watermelon (you might have to do this in batches) until smooth and set aside. Transfer to a large bowl.

4. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, 1 teaspoon of the lime zest, the lime juice and wine. Simmer, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat, cool and add to the pureed watermelon. Pour the mixture into ice-cube trays (I used 3 trays) and freeze until solid, a few hours or overnight.

5. When you are ready to serve, put the frozen cubes in a single layer in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 9 or 10 times until very finely chopped but still frozen. Garnish with remaining zest. Serve immediately in chilled glasses. Makes about 2 quarts.

-Click here to see photos of new recipes for watermelon