Salsa Sandia Aleppo

When I decided to plant watermelons in my garden for the first time this year, in the back of my mind I knew I wanted to experiment with this fruit in a salsa.

Now that the watermelons have grown to full size and after a rare chile discovery at the farmers market, I have a new sweet and spicy creation, Salsa Sandia Aleppo.

I have used grounded Aleppo seasoning before, but had never been able to work with fresh Aleppo peppers, also known as Halaby peppers. During the Roasted Chile Festival at the Rillito Park Farmers Market I found out that SouthWinds Farms out of Benson, Arizona, was selling these rare fresh peppers.

The chiles are named after the city of Aleppo in Northwestern Syria, with the peppers originating from Syria and Turkey. Aleppo peppers are typically dried out and grounded into seasonings, so finding fresh forms of theses chiles is very uncommon.

The heat level is not overwhelming, but is present in the chile. Aleppo peppers are known more for having a sweet taste with a flavor similar to cumin.

Those flavors went great with the watermelon in Salsa Sandia Aleppo, but I wanted to add a bit more intensity. That’s why I wanted to use another spicer chile to increase the heat. I went with a fresh Red Anaheim from my garden, but really any type of fresh red pepper like a Fresno, Serrano, Jalapeño, or even a Tabasco will work for the salsa.

It takes a few seconds for the spiciness to reach your tongue, but it is there. That’s because the sweetness of the watermelon is the star of the the dish. Fresh watermelon is one of the most pleasant tastes you can experience. I was fortunate enough to have a few watermelons grow in my garden this year.

It took awhile for my watermelons to develop, as I quickly discovered the quail in my backyard loved to eat the plant’s young leaves. After placing a net over the plant it started to mature, eventually taking over my pomegranate well and expanding out to my lime tree. Now that the watermelons are larger than bowling balls it was the perfect time to use the fruit for a salsa.

With such as sweet and spicy mixture my first instinct was to use this salsa with fish or chicken. I really enjoyed using it on top of salmon. I mixed the Salsa Sandia Aleppo with chopped salmon in a rice bowl for a fun-quick meal. I also discovered after sharing the salsa with some friends that it is an exceptional appetizer with some chips at a party.

3 Aleppo Peppers, roasted, seeded, stemmed
1 Red Anaheim (or any type of fresh red chile), roasted, stemmed, seeded
2 ½ cups Watermelon chunks, seeded
1 tbsp Cilantro
1 tbsp red onion, roasted
¼ tsp Salt
¼ tsp Pepper

Roast the peppers until lightly charred on all sides. Then carefully remove the stem, and seeds. Transfer the chiles to a blender. Roast the red onion for 10 seconds on each side and then add to the blender as well as the cilantro.

Remove any seeds from the watermelon chunks before transferring to the blender. Purée for 30 seconds, then add the salt and pepper, and blend for one more minute. Pour the salsa into a bowl and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes before serving.

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