Cookin with the Kids
Simple Sides: Watermelon-Kiwi Cooler Cubes
By Dennis Linden
In this country children consume an estimated 12 percent of their calories from fast food and 20 percent of all American meals are eaten in the car! The consequences are predictably unhealthy. Competing schedules in the day-to-day lives of a busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal together, but not impossible. In fact, with a little planning, cooking together can become a fun family event and learning opportunity. This feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children, working together under the supervision of an adult, with one uncomplicated, healthy and delicious side dish recipe. The dishes will be centered on seasonal fresh produce items; the recipes will always contain tasks will allow even the youngest kitchen helper to contribute to the family meal. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to judge the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where adult attention might be especially needed.
Many of the recipes presented here will seem very basic -- this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will provide the culinary foundation and confidence to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their experience in the kitchen develops. Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family unit at least once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a wonderful way to teach a child basic culinary skills and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories in all of your hearts forever. “No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing” – Julia Child.
It’s July and much too hot outside to cook with your kids inside. However, the lessons can continue in the kitchen by making a cooling snack for the whole family that requires no cooking, combines two favorite fruits, a blender, a melon baller and some fun on a hot day! After all, what’s better to beat the heat than a chilled watermelon? The answer is a bite of cold watermelon, topped with lime-infused kiwi fruit, seasoned with a sprinkling of coarse salt!
Start with a large, seedless watermelon. I initially tried this recipe using a small, almost perfectly round, mini seedless watermelon thinking it was the perfect size for young kitchen helpers to handle. Unfortunately, the small melon yielded just enough cooler squares for maybe only one person. So use a standard size watermelon that the supervising adult should handle anyway to remove the rind before handing the slabs over to the kids for preparation. (Skip the lesson on watermelon rind removal and let your helpers focus on the fun parts of this recipe in order to instill culinary interest without the tedium – they can earn tedium later!)
There are a few tasks to this recipe that even your youngest sous chef can help with. For instance, scooping the kiwi out of their fuzzy shells is a job a child of any age can accomplish; same with cutting out the watermelon “squares” – for your youngest, armed with plastic knife. Also, the word “square” is in quotes because no precision is necessary here and, in fact, once your helpers have made this recipe once, encourage they get creative with a variety of shapes and sizes in the next batch. And there will be a next batch as this snack will be a favorite solution to the hot weather for the rest of summer! The only parameter is that each square be plenty large enough to allow the melon-baller to scoop out a depression.
The brilliant bright green fruit of Kiwi contrasted against the rich red of the watermelon adds a whimsical feeling that always evokes a smile. The hint of lime in each bite is one of those small culinary flavor details that demonstrates to your aspiring chefs how just a few ounces gives this cooling summer snack “ade” quality and certainly more fun than a glass of anything! Same with the coarse salt – the simple seasoning adds a pleasant salty tang to the flavor mix and also helps replenish the body’s metabolism from the July heat.
The one small hands challenge in this recipe is using the melon baller to turn the watermelon squares into cups. The learning curve will involve sacrificing some fruit in finding just the right depth and size of the depression that really depends upon the thickness of the melon piece being transformed. Note: I used two sizes of ballers depending on the width of the square and aimed for scooping out a deep depression without cutting through the square’s bottom. There needs to be supporting fruit surrounding each depression for the kiwi puree to be poured neatly into each and stay there.
While the recipe uses half a large watermelon, a whole one could be made and even served in several stages of coldness. That is, refrigerate for a few hours and serve cold; pop into the freezer section and enjoy halfway through the freezing process for a slushy-like cooker or let the square freeze solid to make a batch of mini popsicles that can be enjoyed for weeks when the temperature heats up!
Watermelon-Kiwi Cooler Squares
½ large seedless watermelon, rind removed, cut in large thick slabs
2 Kiwi Fruit
2 oz. Lime Juice
Coarse salt, to taste
What the Kids can do:
Scoop the fruit out of each kiwi and cut into large pieces. Place kiwi pieces in a blender or food processor, add lime juice and purée into a thick, smooth consistency.
Using the most seedless parts of each slab of watermelon, cut squares out roughly 1½ inches wide. Then use a melon-baler to hollow out a small pocket in the middle of each cube to form a tiny cup.
Place watermelon cubes on a cookie tray lined with parchment paper, then fill each cup with kiwi purée. Chill in refrigerator or freezer until quite cold, then lightly sprinkle each cube with coarse salt and eat with fingers!
What the supervising adult should do:
Removing the melon’s thick rind and cutting the fruit into thick slabs is mostly safely accomplished by the adult in the kitchen and presented to your helpers as a ready-to-go ingredient. Their fun should be all about cutting out the watermelon cubes and filling each. For Adults Only: who says the kids should have all the fun – set some squares and purée aside, pour a shot of gin or vodka over each melon piece and/or into the puree for a unique adult refresher!