Watermelon with Smoked Sea Salt & Cayenne

Several summers ago, Scott and I had a date night at a little restaurant in the East Village called The Redhead.

On the appetizer menu that hot summer evening was Watermelon with Smoked Sea Salt & Cayenne Pepper.

It sounded just weird enough that we had to try it.

And wow - are we glad we did.

Watermelon

It was so amazing, we asked the chef what all was on it.  He assured us it was simply watermelon slices sprinkled with smoked sea salt and cayenne pepper.

Once watermelon season rolls around each year, this is one of our favorite treats.  If you come to our apartment during the summer, we will probably serve it to you.

No complicated recipe here.  Start with thick slices of watermelon - preferably at room temperature.  Sprinkle them with a bit of smoked sea salt and cayenne pepper.  Let the watermelon sit for 15 to 30 minutes to let the flavors meld.

A few notes about the seasonings.  Not to get all fancy here, but your standard table salt does not deliver the complex flavors that smoked varieties will.  My favorite for this particular recipe is Maldon Smoked Sea Salt Flakes.  Check local stores to see what they have, or if you like to Amazon things, they have a wide selection.

Also - be very light-handed with the pepper, because a little bit goes a long way.  If you have an old jar of cayenne that has lost some of its punch, you can use a bit more.  But if you have a new one - watch out - unless you really want some heat.

While I don't see this dish on the restaurant's current menu, for New Yorkers with Southern roots who might crave a bit of low-country shrimp and grits, bacon-braised collard greens, or their signature buttermilk fried chicken - this is your place.  If you're not in NYC, you can order their famous bacon peanut brittles.

So - give this a shot, and let me know what you think!

What other restaurant dishes have you tried that sounded strange at first - but you ended up loving it?