I can’t remember a family gathering where, at the end of the meal, a giant platter of watermelon and other fresh fruit wasn’t brought to the table. It was the ideal ending to summers meals of barbecued meats and fish, rice and nuts, or my auntie Nuha’s shawarma.
Watermelon may not come to your mind as a Middle Eastern fruit – given that much of the region is exceptionally dry and sandy – but they have actually been grown in the region, down through sub-Saharan Africa, for centuries. Their juicy interiors helped desert dwellers stay hydrated, and the dried, roasted seeds were later eaten as snacks.
Today I’m sharing a somewhat more modern interpretation of the fruit platters of my youth, combining another family favorite: salty white (halloumi) cheese. Fruit and cheese skewers earn praise from guests, and as a bonus, couldn’t be easier for you in the kitchen. For guests, they are practically guiltless, and a refreshing combination of sweet and salty at brunch or the end of a meal. Little do they know know you prepared the skewers in advance from whatever’s in season, and sipped mimosas while you waited for them to arrive. Might as well display several flutes on the counter, to make matters less suspicious of course.
These days most fruit is available all year round, but nothing compares to the fragrance of fruit in season. In early summer, pair the salty halloumi with with apricots or plump black cherries. Midsummer nectarines and peaches are a perfect match, as are the watermelon and canteloupe I’ve used here. And in the long, steaming days of late summer, figs and blackberries will make you wish the season lasts forever.
- Half of 1 watermelon (look for one with vibrant, unbruised flesh)
- 1 cantaloupe, seeds removed
- 1 block halloumi cheese (250g - you will have leftovers)
- Fresh mint, for garnish
- Toothpicks or skewers of your choice
- Peel and chop the watermelon and cantaloupe into bite-sized cubes, or use a melon baller to scoop out little spheres.
- Slice the block of halloumi in half lengthwise, then cut thin slices crossways to make squares.
- Assemble the skewers by stacking one piece of halloumi on the bottom, followed by one piece each of watermelon and cantaloupe. Top them off with a small mint leaf (or a larger one torn into small pieces).
- Chill until ready to serve, with mimosas at brunch or cocktails after dinner.
Audio pairing: Pete Rock, “A Little Soul”