Welcome to SAVEUR’s column on how to cook local produce according to our test kitchen manager, Fatima Khawaja. This is where you’ll find creative, unfussy meal ideas plus plenty of cooking advice—like what to do with that bumper crop of zucchini or how to store delicate heirloom tomatoes. Every other week, Fatima hits the farmers market and chooses a peak-season ingredient to explore in depth. Follow along, and you’ll learn how to turn the season’s bounty into easy plant-based meals that’ll be on the table in under an hour.
In June, I was lucky enough to visit Baja, Mexico. I was awestruck by the endless beaches, warm hospitality, and unforgettable dining—but it was the produce that truly won me over.
The watermelon tasted like my childhood. In Pakistan, there were always bowls of cold, juicy, cubed melon in the refrigerator. I’d snack on them in the summertime with the door still ajar.
In both Baja and my home city of Lahore, fresh fruit juices abound. This recipe for watermelon agua fresca, then, is a kind of cross-cultural celebration. The key ingredient is salt, which accentuates the melon’s sweetness.
When buying a watermelon, look for the orange “field spot” on the rind. That’s where the fruit met the ground while growing. The darker the color of the field spot, the more sun the melon got, meaning the sweeter it’ll be. Most grocery store watermelons are of the picnic variety, which is striped, large, and heavy. I sometimes spot icebox watermelons at the farmers market, which are petite and perfect for one person. Both seedless and regular watermelon work in this recipe.
Agua frescas are alcohol-free crowd-pleasers for people of all ages, but they are also a wonderful base for cocktails. In Cabo, I fell in love with the watermelon julep at Flora Farms, a farm-to-table restaurant that grows 115 types of fruits and vegetables. Find that recipe here.
- 1 lb. watermelon chunks
- Pinch kosher salt