Roasted, smoked or spicy hot are words you'd hardly associate with cool, sweet, red watermelon, but this controversial culinary experiment is for real and it's causing opinions that range from "applause, applause" from vegans to "it grosses me out" from purist chefs.

In New York City, at the famed Standard Grill, celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito's newest menu selection is ham, but not the kind you have for an Easter dinner celebration. It's a slice of local watermelon trying to impersonate Porky Pig. The recipe calls for curing the fruit in a salt solution and then smoking it to perfection to duplicate a roasted ham taste and scent. The question is: would you fork over $39 for watermelon ham with game-changing stuffing and country gravy?

I haven't found any local restaurateurs willing to add watermelon as a stand-in for meat, but watermelon substitutes are starting to pop up around the country. Planta in South Beach, Miami is serving watermelon in a faux-spicy tuna sushi roll, with the red fruit taking on the appearance for the raw tuna.

How does a nice, juicy steak sandwich sound? Then there's a vegan favorite for birthdays, the no-bake watermelon cake: a round-shaped piece of watermelon, about the thickness of a layer, sheathed in a dairy-free coconut milk frosting. Only problem here is you can't stack the layers because of the excessive amount of water that makes a mess of the layer below.

Would you try a slice of watermelon "pizza" with the fruit serving as the hot crust? I might, if we added some prosciutto and fresh basil leaf.

So what about you? Are you willing to serve up a sloppy joe on a watermelon bun for the kiddies?

Truth be told, my mother used to make the most delicious, soft-to-the-bite and flavorful candied watermelon rind that I still yearn for to this day. But watermelon roasted ham sounds as appetizing to me as a carrot hot dog.

Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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