Nina Planck knows from real food.
She is the daughter of two Virginia farmers, a founder of farmer’s markets from London to New York, the author of Real Food: What to Eat and Why and Real Food for Mother and Baby, and married to the proprietor of New York’s famed Murray’s Cheese.
Having picked many a watermelon in her day, we knew Nina would be just the person to consult for a summer recipe to suit all the gorgeous watermelon just starting to flood the markets.
We’ve long known about watermelon’s superpower-like hydrating properties, but new studies on the ability of watermelon to reduce the risk of heart disease and to relieve muscle soreness (take that, Ibuprofen), have us wanting to incorporate the fruit into our diets in more ways than just eating it out of hand.
Planck’s recipe for a Fermented Watermelon Basil Cooler from her brand-new cookbook, The Real Food Cookbook: Traditional Dishes for Modern Cooks came through in a big way.
This recipe is a perfect vehicle for enjoying watermelon’s amino acids (L-citrulline and L-arginine), antioxidant powerhouses (Vitamins C and A) and its anti-inflammatory phytonutrient (Cucurbitacin E) in one juicy, unexpected drink.
For the recipe Planck blends watermelon with basil, lemon juice and a tiny bit of whole cane sugar (palm sugar is an acceptable swap) and unrefined sea salt. The final magic touch is fresh whey and a fermentation period of three days (i.e. leave it out on your counter and don’t touch it), which carbonates the drink. Drink the cooler as is, or make it boozy with the addition of vodka for a Watermelon Basil Fermentini.
We’re raising a glass to your health!
- 8 to 10 pounds watermelon, cut into cubes
- 1/2 cup basil leaves
- 1 cup of juice from Meyer or regular lemons
- 1/4 cup organic whole cane sugar or palm sugar
- 1/4 cup fresh whey (CP Note: Purchase a quart of organic whole-milk yogurt and strain through cheesecloth overnight in the fridge. Use resulting whey in recipe.)
- 1 tablespoons unrefined sea salt
- 3 cups water
- In a blender or food processor, blend the watermelon chunks until smooth (working in batches if necessary). You should have 3 cups of pulpy juice.
- Gently bruise 1⁄2 cup of basil leaves with a mortar and pestle to release their oils. Squeeze 1 cup of Meyer lemon juice.
- Place the watermelon juice, lemon juice, basil leaves, sugar, whey and salt in a sterilized 2-quart glass jar. Cover with the water, stir and close the lid tightly.
- Let sit at room temperature for 3 days. Unscrew the lid daily to allow a little carbonation to escape, then replace the lid.
- After 3 days, chill and serve. The watermelon cooler can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
Watermelon Basil Fermentini: Pour 1 ounce of vodka over ice, add 6 ounces of Watermelon Basil Cooler, and shake vigorously. Garnish with watermelon and basil.