To celebrate Summer, her beautiful garden and her Leo birthday, Flora gives a Garden Party for her friends, varied as the flowers in her garden. A gargantuan effort of a party bursting with sunshine, guests, flowers, umbrella-tables, wine and food.
“What can I bring?”
“A fruit salad would be wonderful and would give us a break the morning of the party.”
I would never refuse a Flora request. Flora is the Proust prototype of “the charming gardener.”
“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust.
Yikes!!! The last time I made a watermelon basket was so long ago I’m entitled to forget.
I gleefully gave away my melon-baller, that little Betty Crocker ’5os instrument of kitchen torture—and never looked back. I needed to do something to make it fun. I called Flora back. “Can I infuse the melon with vodka?”
“No teetotalers coming here!”
That’s all I needed. I’m out the door with my list and to find Lime-Vodka and a melon-baller. At the store I met the Tin Man, he said he needs a heart.
I have aspic cutters…and an idea. Aspic cutters?
Vanishing Lime-Vodka Watermelon Fruit Basket
I had to give the Lime-Vodka Watermelon top billing, a definite favorite. This salad is not only labor intensive… but it needs to be done at the last minute, except for the cherries, berries, pineapple, plums and grapes.
Besides the melon-baller, you need a sharp long knife, cutting board, cookie tray, baking pan, and the patience of JOB.
2 watermelons, 1 to cut for the basket, oblong is best, and 1 round fat’n juicy watermelon for the Lime Vodka infusion.
1 750 ml. Lime Flavored Vodka 70 plus proof, bottle with a long neck!
2 large cantaloupes
5 pounds organic red cherries*
3 pounds organic seedless green grapes
3 pints organic blueberries
4 black plums, sliced
4 donut peaches*
2 cans of pineapple wedges in natural juice, drained
1 bunch of Farmers market mint
Quart size plastic bags
Clear room in your refrigerator for the 2 watermelons plus all the fruit.
The fat’n juicy melon needs enough shelf clearance to have the vodka bottle plugged-in and sticking-out the top of the melon.
Put the fat’n juicy melon into a baking pan for drips, cut a hole the size of vodka bottle cap in the top of the melon. Remove as much melon flesh from the plug insert as possible. Place the melon in pan in sink, cover the top of uncorked bottle with your fingers and place above the hole, quickly remove your fingers and jam the neck of the bottle into opening. This is where the long neck works best. Prop bottled melon (I used the grapes) in the refrigerator and refrigerate 15 plus hours.
Refrigerate oblong watermelon and cantaloupe.
*Wash red cherries and sort for imperfections, leave stems on. Pat dry and bag in quart plastic bags with mint sprigs. Refrigerate.
Wash, sort and remove stems from blueberries and grapes. Pat dry and pack in quart plastic bags with mint sprigs.
Drain pineapple chunks, bag with mint and refrigerate.
The day before:
Slice black plums in thin wedges, slice into bite size pieces, bag, sprinkle with lime juice, add mint sprigs.
Cut cantaloupes in half, remove seeds and with melon-baller make melon balls, it’s easier to practice on cantaloupe, press and turn. Place in quart bags, sprinkle with fresh lime juice and add mint sprigs.
Cut the oblong watermelon for the basket:
Place the cutting board on the cookie sheet, from this point forward things get juicy and messy.
Draw a handle in center with non-permanent marker in center of melon halfway down. Draw sides of basket a little above halfway mark so you can make zig-zag edges, or scallop. Quarter each side for easy removal from handle and place rind and flesh aside. Hollow out handle.
Start with the melon-baller and make those balls…until the pink-white rind shows, place balls in quart bags and sprinkle with lime juice and add mint sprigs.
With a metal spoon scrape rind until pink-tinged-white, cut spikes into sides and rinse melon basket, pat dry with paper towel and sprinkle with lime juice. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
The day of the party:
Remove Vodka bottle. Slice fat’n juicy melon in ½ vertically. Flesh side down slice each half —in ½ vertically again. Place flat and cut in ¾ inch slices.
Get out the aspic cutters and start cutting stars and hearts like cookies.
Don’t eat the scraps or you won’t make it to the party!
Place hearts and stars in hard plastic containers for transport. They are juicy and fragile. Sprinkle with extra vodka, if any, ha! and drain.
At the party layer fruit for color and on top of each layer add the infused stars and hearts.
The easy part:
* On a separate large white platter pile the cherries. Garnish with donut peaches, homage to Stephanie. It looks beautiful and makes a great finger food appetizer while people gather, laugh, drink and wait. And you don’t have to pit them!
On a larger platter place the Vanishing Lime-Vodka Watermelon Fruit Basket, add fluffy green leaves and flowers for garnish around the base of basket.