This recipe was demonstrated for CUESA's Market to Table program on September 1, 2012.
4 pieces of watermelon, cut into rectangles and scored
2 cactus pads, de-thorned
2 ounces (approximately ¼ cup) extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces (approximately ¼ cup) sugar
1 ounce mescal tequila
24 leaves of Genovese (aka Italian) basil
1 Charentais melon, peeled, deseeded, and cut into rounds
1 Crenshaw melon, peeled, deseeded, and cut into rounds
4 ounces (approximately ½ cup) yogurt
12 leaves of purple basil
Black pepper and coarse sea salt
1. Heat a grill pan or a plancha on high heat. Season the watermelon and char on one side. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
2. Lightly toss the cactus with half of the olive oil and some salt; grill on both sides. Remove from the head, cut into 2-inch squares, and set aside.
3. In a small saucepot, bring ¼ cup water, the sugar, and the tequila to a simmer. Remove from the heat and place in a blender with 10 leaves of Genovese basil. Purée until smooth, strain, and let cool.
4. Marinate the heirloom melons in the basil syrup for 20 minutes.
5. Season the yogurt with salt and pepper and add the remaining olive oil.
6. Place the charred watermelon in the middle of a plate, then arrange the heirloom melons and cactus around it. Finish with the remaining Genovese basil, the purple basil leaves, and the yogurt.