Grilled Red Snapper with Watermelon and Tomato Salsa

June 27, 2017




It took me a few years–quite a few years, actually–before I came around to the idea of pairing sweet and savory foods together. Somehow, I always associated the mashup of sweet and savory with yucky Chinese dishes like sweet and sour pork, which I detest. Maybe I just ate at too many mediocre Asian restaurants as a kid, I don’t know.

I shouldn’t have been too averse, because growing up, I’d watch my father sprinkle salt onto his watermelon and eat it with relish.

“You should try it,” he’d say, winking across the table.

I’d wrinkle my nose. “Salt? On watermelon?”

“Trust me,” my father would say. “The salt somehow actually makes the melon taste sweeter. I don’t know how or why, but it does.”

For years, I didn’t believe him and plus, this was the guy who both salted and peppered his morning slice of cantaloupe, so I figured the man was just a little off to start with.

Until one day I tried it. I sprinkled a little salt onto a fat wedge of watermelon and…lo and behold. Daddy-o was onto something there. That smidgen of salt actually did make the watermelon taste better.

That successful experiment opened me up to a whole realm of new possibilities. That strawberry, spinach and red onion salad I’d been rejecting all those years? Tried it. Liked it. Ditto the Chinese chicken salad with mandarin oranges in it. No way would I touch that thing as a kid, but once I started to grow and push those boundaries a little, I discovered that some sweet/savory combinations really worked.

In high school, when we took a trip to the Bahamas, I tried my first taste of jerk chicken, topped with a cooling mango salsa. The icy sweetness of the salsa doused the tingling of the jerk spices in the nicest sort of way.

In college, a trip to Hawaii resulted in a plate of ahi poke nachos, eaten poolside at a fancy Maui hotel. They were accentuated by a smoky chile and pineapple relish, and the contrast of textures and colors was a revelation.

One blazing summer afternoon, some young girls visiting from Mexico introduced me to their favorite warm-weather snack: slices of chilled, sweet mango, drizzled with salt, lime and chile powder. How had I never heard of this before?

During the blustery winter months, I never think of using fruit in my savory dishes, even though there are plenty of recipes out there using apples, pears, etc.  Those recipes just don’t appeal to me. But once the weather turns and luscious summer fruit like plums, peaches, pineapple and watermelon begin appearing in market stalls, I’m in.

More often than not, my first thought is to fire up the barbecue, because there’s something about topping grilled meat or fish with a zingy fruit salsa that screams, “Summer, dudes! Pull up a chair! Crack open a beer! Stay awhile.”

This recipe for snapper with watermelon salsa will have you in Summer Mode in no time. You can serve the fish simply, topped with the salsa and served with your choice of side dishes, or you can slide chunks of fish and salsa into a soft tortilla and top with avocado and lime, which is what I usually do. It’s easy enough for a weeknight but pretty enough for guests. It also makes a great addition to any potluck, since it doesn’t have to be screaming hot to taste good.

Feels like summer already.



Snapper with Watermelon and Tomato Salsa

serves 4

slightly adapted from Cooking Light magazine

1 1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes

1 1/2 cups diced seedless watermelon

1/4 cup finely diced red onion

1 jalapeno or Fresno chile, seeded and finely chopped

1 tablespoon silver tequila

2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon finely chopped mint

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

3 tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil, divided

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon Tajin seasoning (you can find this in the spice aisle or the Mexican food aisle in most grocery stores nowadays. If not, substitute grill or Cajun seasoning)

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

4 (6-ounce) red snapper fillets, each about 1/2-inch thick

special equipment: metal grill basket*


Stir together the tomatoes, watermelon, red onion, chile, tequila, cilantro, mint, lime juice, 1 tablespoon canola oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Brush your grill grates really well. Grill needs to be very clean! Heat grill on high.

Brush fish with remaining 2 tablespoons oil and season with 1/4 teaspoons salt, Tajin seasoning and pepper. Place in a grill basket.

Grill fish over direct high heat, turning once, with the lid closed, about 4-5 minutes total. Remove fish from grill, let rest for a few minutes, remove from grill basket.

Serve salsa over fish.


*If you don’t have a metal grill basket, you can cook fish in foil packets on the grill for about 5-7 minutes.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

elizabeth June 27, 2017 at 10:55 am

I too was a late convert to the salty-sweet combination, but now I want to do the mango, lime, and chili powder over a piece of fish or similar ASAP for dinner because that sounds SO GOOD.


Erica June 28, 2017 at 1:16 pm

Oh my gosh! This took me back! My father taught me to salt my watermelon, cantaloupe, and tomatoes. These days I only salt my tomatoes anymore. I take that back. I can’t eat raw stone fruits but I can eat them cooked. Last summer I tried an experiment… sliced peaches & nectarines, sprinkled with sea salt, and roasted on a baking sheet. I ate them all.


Dana Talusani June 29, 2017 at 11:09 am


Those roasted peaches and nectarines would be genius over vanilla/salted caramel gelato. Just sayin’.


Arnebya June 30, 2017 at 6:00 am

I adore watermelon. Unfortunately, so does everyone else in my house. I’ve never cared for salt on watermelon, but tomatoes? Absolutely. And coarse black pepper. Oh, my.


ayala July 4, 2017 at 3:47 pm

Yummy :) Thank you! Happy Fourth! :)


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