Say watermelon and see picnic? While this star of summer still shines in coolers and cookouts, chef Andrea Lever Upchurch has stepped up the fruit’s game. Executive pastry chef for Magnolias, Blossom, and Cypress restaurants, Upchurch brings a popsicle that will satisfy your inner child, but also develops the savory potential of watermelon’s sweet red flesh.
In her pops, its combination with creamy, subtle pineapple and tart raspberry pleases multiple parts of the palate. As for her watermelon consommé with scallop ceviche, “On warm summer days it is a great dish to cool off your guests while exciting their taste buds,” she says. “The chilled fruit is delivered in the naturally sweet and simple consommé and plays perfectly against the heat and depth of the jalapeño, citrus, and herbs in the ceviche.” In a grilled watermelon and shrimp salad, she teases the two Lowcountry favorites with South American ingredients and intensifies the fruit’s flavor with time on the grill.
Upchurch sources her melons from Coosaw Farms, fourth-generation growers in watermelon-prolific Allendale County. While Charleston County is not known for watermelon production for the wholesale market, the melon on your table doesn’t have to travel far to get there. Boone Hall Farms has a prodigious patch that fills its store. Upchurch recommends the crimson sweet, a round orb with fine-textured flesh that averages 18 to 25 pounds. Just be sure it’s ripe. “Lift the watermelon; riper melons tend to be heavier with thick rinds,” she advises. “The rind should be dull, not shiny. Also, the spot where the melon rested on the ground while growing should be yellow, not white or green. Whole melons can be stored in the refrigerator but not longer than a week and a half. Cut watermelon should be wrapped tightly, refrigerated, and used within a few days.”
Dishing It Up with Chef Andrea Lever Upchurch
RESTAURANTS: Magnolias, Blossom, and Cypress
ACCOLADES: 2012 Chef Chair for Charleston Wine & Food Festival
FIRST F&B GIG: Hostess at Uncle Liu’s in Lake Wylie, SC
EDUCATION: Degrees in Culinary Art and Hospitality and Tourism Management at Culinary Institute of Charleston; Bachelor of Arts in Arts Management at College of Charleston
FAVORITE LOCAL INGREDIENT: Peaches
RECIPE SHE'LL TAKE TO THE GRAVE: “My Nanny’s pear relish and lemon cheesecake.“