This Middle Eastern-inspired snack is a refreshing and indulging summer treat! Thick-sliced watermelon topped with harissa paste, pistachio dukkah, sumac, and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses; the combination is a perfect fresh blend of sweet, tart, and spicy.
All right, all right, all right! I know I always start off these posts telling you how excited I am to share a recipe with you, etc, etc. But listen, okay? I am really, I MEAN REALLY, excited about this one. More so than so many others in the past. Why, you might ask? Because I'm willing to bet you haven't had watermelon quite like this before.
Bold words, I know – but I'm standing by it. This recipe was inspired by a competition at work a while back a la Top Chef-style, where participants made something using a secret ingredient and submitted a photo and description for voting (cause we're all working from home right now). The secret ingredient was watermelon. I was super intrigued by the challenge and needed to think outside the box for this one.
I turned to The Flavor Bible, which is one of my favorite books for recipe inspiration. It was gifted to me by some friends on my 30th birthday when I first launched the blog and it's an amazing guide on playing with different flavors and getting creative. I came across a snippet by Chef Gabriel Kreuther, who took a watermelon salad to another level by topping the watermelon with a tomato confit and pistachios, which was then placed in the oven for a quick minute before topping with a drizzle of balsamic.
That watermelon sounds like an amazing dish and I plan to explore making a variant just like it at some point, but for this challenge I wanted to make Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors really shine. And I'm so glad they did because I wasn't planning on making this a recipe to share on here at the time!
My Love for Aegina Pistachios
The whole combination of Chef Gabriel's watermelon dish appealed to me, and the ingredient that really caught my eye was the use of pistachios. It's my favorite nut! Eating them reminds me of being in Greece, on my favorite island Aegina, where some of the world's best pistachios (and some of my family!) are from. They are a little pricy, but I almost always have them in my pantry. I haven't visited family there in a long time (I need to fix that but that's a story for another time lol), but I can sometimes find them at some Greek specialty shops nearby. When they are sold out, I buy them from GreekShops instead. If you have never tried Aegina pistachios, I encourage you to purchase them if you can! They are incredibly tasty on their own or in recipes, like dukkah 😉 They're roasted with sea salt and have a very unique taste. Also, they're addictive.
Of course, you can absolutely use any pistachios for this recipe, though Aegina pistachios will impart the best flavor, for real.
Making Dukkah-Spiced Watermelon
While Chef Gabriel's watermelon dish is quickly flashed in the oven, my version doesn't require its use; you can serve it with the watermelon either cold or at room temperature. The watermelon is layered with a few toppings, some of which are staples I tend to make and keep in the fridge: harissa paste and pomegranate molasses. I recommend you make these in advance (making these is not included in the prep time for this recipe!) or use store-bought if you have good quality brands handy.
I always like to recommend toasting spices before grinding because it adds an extra layer of depth, but if you're pressed for time or just feeling lazy, I get it and promise I won't judge you for skipping the toasting step. However, I will only allow the skipping for coriander and cumin. You should absolutely toast the sesame seeds.
The recipe is written to make twelve servings, but the beauty of this snack is you can also make individual servings as you go if you have the dukkah prepared in advance, which is what I was doing at home with my abundance of watermelon recently. Whether you are planning to make all twelve servings or one at a time, you'll likely have a small amount of dukkah leftover, but you can either serve extra alongside the watermelon for extra sprinkling or save it for other cooking adventures (I love dukkah on lamb).
The end result is this rich, almost indulging treat with a fantastic blend of flavors: the smoky heat from the harissa, spiced crunch from the dukkah, the sweet and sourness from the pomegranate molasses, and tang from the sumac. For some added color and flavor, you can also lightly garnish the finished dish with some fresh mint.
Please go make this and report back immediately! I gotta know your thoughts and feelings on this. <3
Pistachio Dukkah-Spiced Watermelon with Harissa and Pomegranate Molasses
- 1/3 cup shelled roasted pistachios (36-38 grams, see notes)*
- 1 1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
- salt to taste, optional
- In a small pan over medium heat, toast the coriander and cumin seeds for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- Add the sesame seeds to the pan and toast until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- If using a mortar and pestle: add pistachios, coriander and cumin. Crush, grind, and gently pound the ingredients until there's a harmonious blend of coarsely chopped pieces and powder. See notes if combining soft and crunchy food is a texture issue for you.*
- If using a spice grinder: add pistachios, coriander, and cumin. Pulse the ingredients until there's a harmonious blend of coarsely chopped pieces and powder. See notes if combining soft and crunchy food is a texture issue for you.*
- Add sesame seeds and stir together until combined. Salt can be added, depending on whether you used salted or unsalted pistachios. Add to taste.
For the Watermelon
- Top each watermelon piece with half a tablespoon of harissa paste.
- Then sprinkle each piece with a teaspoon of pistachio dukkah.*
- Drizzle with pomegranate molasses and sprinkle with sumac.
- Garnish lightly with mint, if using.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
- If measuring pistachios with the shell on, you will need 1/2 cup (~62 grams).
- You'll likely have extra watermelon leftover depending on the size used. Reserve any leftovers for other uses or snacking – or make more dukkah-spiced watermelon!
- If you're not into combining soft and crunchy food due to its texture, I recommend blitzing the pistachios, coriander, and cumin into a finer powder using a spice grinder. Then mix in the sesame seeds.
- If you have extra dukkah seasoning leftover, you can either store it for future cooking adventures or serve it alongside the watermelon.