Watermelon Salsita Crab and Fin

Similar to a salsa, salsitas have “integrity,” says Executive Chef Benjamin Rottkamp. He’s referring to texture, but the jury is out on a salsita’s truthiness. And, being made of finely chopped ingredients instead of pureed options, salsitas do retain a heartier mouth feel and a more solid connection to the original ingredient. For the watermelon salsita at Crab and Fin, the chefs utilize as much of the watermelon as possible, including pickling the rind with spices, sugar and rice wine vinegar and mixing it in with the red meat of the fruit. “We always try to utilize everything with our fruits and vegetables,” says Rottkamp, and incorporating the rind—not to mention the pickling—creates a whole new flavor profile as the sweet and the sour battle for supremacy. With a couple variations, the watermelon salsita is finished with red onion and fresh mint to accompany the Gulf grouper cheeks, or with charred corn, cumin and coriander as a more savory accent for the fish tacos. Either way, says Rottkamp, it’s a great complement to seafood night.

Crab and Fin, 420 St. Armands Cir., Sarasota, 941-388-3964.

Watermelon Jalapeño Margarita The Cottage

On a hot Sarasota day looking for respite and refreshment, no longer must one choose between margaritas and melons—over at The Cottage, the watermelon jalapeño margarita gives weary travelers just what they need with a dose of both. Agave nectar is brought straight up from Mexico, then boiled with fresh jalapeños to create a clean simple syrup with no added sugars. Building a standard margarita around the sweet and spicy base, the result is a mild heat. “Enough to kiss your lips, but not overpowering,” says Executive Chef Evan Gastman. “It’s that addictive spice that keeps you coming back.” Finishing the drink with freshly sliced watermelon muddled with just-squeezed lime juice, whole chunks of watermelon serve as a meaty garnish. 

The Cottage, 153 Avenida Messina, Sarasota, 941-312-9300.

Tuna Tirado and Wahoo Ceviche Selva Grill

The chefs bring the watermelon in to a couple Peruvian classics with the tuna tiradito and wahoo ceviche. Invented by a Japanese man living in Peru, tiradito represents a melding of the two cuisines. Fish is sliced almost sashimi-style instead of cubed, and rather than laying in liquid, gets layered with fruits, vegetables and marinade. For Selva’s tuna tiradito, thinly sliced tuna is layered three times with watermelon and a sesame lime ginger concoction, accompanied by leche de tigre, a spicy citrus sauce on the side. It’s a delicate operation balancing all the flavors, but the payoff is worth it. “When you have all of these components together,” says Selva Managing Partner Jeremy Osment, “it creates this magical cool and warm feeling in your mouth.” For a more straightforward ceviche with a watermelon finish, the wahoo fits the bill with cubed fish in a traditional lime, cilantro and pepper marinade topped with fresh watermelon. But be warned: the hotness goes way up with the addition of jalapeños.

Selva Grill, 1345 Main St., Sarasota, 941-362-4427.