Mark Twain once said, When one has tasted it he knows that the angels eat.
He was talking about watermelons, and I cant argue with him on this one. Watermelons are one of my favorite things.
In fact, one of my first summertime memories consists of sitting in the backyard with my grandpa, Pop, learning the valuable skill of spitting watermelon seeds. This is, of course, a skill all children should learn at a young age and perfect as they grow older.
It is often said that watermelon has no nutritional value, probably due to its high water content. This is, however, inaccurate. Of all fruits and vegetables, watermelon contains the most lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, and just one serving of the fruit provides 25 percent of the Vitamin C you need in a day.
Watermelon season is in full swing here in the South, and I suggest we eat ourselves silly while we can. Instead of just enjoying watermelon as a refreshing dessert or snack, try using it in a salad or as part of a main course, or take advantage of its juice. If you dont have a juicer, use a blender to puree watermelon (no seeds), then strain through a fine mesh strainer. Divide among ice cube trays and, once frozen, transfer to a zip top bag until ready to use.

Watermelon Icebox Pie

Ingredients:
1 cups graham cracker crumbs
cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 (3-ounce) package watermelon-flavored gelatin
cup hot water
1 cups heavy cream
cup sweetened condensed milk
2 cups seeded and diced watermelon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a small bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Place into a pie pan and begin pressing down and outward, bringing the crumbs evenly up the sides. Bake until lightly browned and set, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely. (Or skip this step altogether by buying a premade graham cracker crust.)
In a large bowl, dissolve gelatin in the hot water. Cool to room temperature.
While the gelatin is cooling, use an electric hand mixer or large whisk to whip the cream in a large mixing bowl. When the cream starts to thicken, slowly drizzle in sweetened condensed milk. Continue to whip until the cream holds medium to firm peaks: when the whisk is lifted upright, the tip should hold like a mountain top, only slightly drooping. Do not over whip.
Combine the cooled gelatin mixture with the sweetened whipped cream and fold in diced watermelon. Spoon into the crust and refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.

Icy Watermelon Gazpacho with Poached Shrimp

Ingredients:
8 cups seedless watermelon, diced and divided
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 red bell pepper: ribs and seeds removed; diced
1 yellow bell pepper: ribs and seeds removed; diced
3 stalks celery, peeled and diced
1 jalapeno: ribs and seeds removed; diced
red onion, peeled and diced
cup chopped fresh mint leaves
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup crme fraiche or sour cream
pound poached shrimp (recipe follows)

Place 2 cups diced watermelon in the freezer. Place 6 cups watermelon in a blender and blend until smooth.
In a large bowl, add the cucumber, bell peppers, celery, jalapeno, red onion, mint leaves, lime juice, red wine vinegar and salt; stir to combine. Stir in the blended watermelon, cover and place in the refrigerator until cold, at least one hour.
To serve, divide among bowls, top with a dollop of crme fraiche or sour cream, 2 poached shrimp and sprinkle some of the frozen watermelon over the top.

Poached Shrimp

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 sprigs parsley
4 whole peppercorns
pound (21-25 count) shrimp, peeled and de-veined

Place the lemon juice, salt, parsley and peppercorns in a medium saut pan.
Cover with 1 inch of water. Heat water over high to a boil, then reduce heat to low.
Add the shrimp to the hot liquid. Cook just until the shrimp turn pink, about 3 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels.
Chill poached shrimp until ready to serve.

Seared Jerk Fish with Watermelon Salsa

Ingredients:
2 pounds firm white fish, such as halibut or grouper, cut into 4- to 6-ounce portions
Jerk Seasoning (see recipe below)
1 lime, zested and juiced, plus more juice to taste
1 jalapeno; seeds and ribs removed, minced
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
inch ginger, peeled and grated
red onion, peeled and minced
/ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
2 cups watermelon, diced into -inch cubes
1 cup diced fresh pineapple, mango, or peaches
Canola oil

Rub the fish with the Jerk Seasoning and set aside at room temperature for up to 2 hours.
Meanwhile, in a medium mixing bowl, whisk together lime zest and juice, jalapeno, garlic and ginger. Fold in red onion, cilantro, watermelon and remaining fruit. Season to taste with kosher salt and more lime juice as needed. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Heat a pan over medium. When hot, add enough canola oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan without tilting. Allow the oil to heat for about 1 minute.
Place a few pieces of fish into the pan, taking care to leave at least 1 inch of space between each piece; do not overcrowd the pan.
Allow the fish to cook undisturbed until it has cooked more than halfway through. Flip only once and finish cooking. Repeat with any remaining fish.
Serve topped with watermelon salsa.

Jerk Seasoning

Ingredients:
6 green onions, coarsely chopped
3 shallots, peeled and quartered
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped or grated
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
teaspoon ground cloves
cup canola oil, plus more as needed

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until a smooth paste forms, adding more oil as needed.
Note: Jerk seasoning can be purchased in several different forms or made at home. The seasoning purchased in its dry form should be first mixed with a little oil and lemon juice before using. Jerk seasoning bought in paste form can be used as is.

Season Stepp is a correspondent for The Spartanburg (S.C.) Herald-Journal.