When I was young, I had a late-night habit that would have made a dentist squirm. After I'd brushed my teeth and gone to bed, I'd sneak into the kitchen, put a heaping tablespoon of peanut butter in a mug, creep back to my room, and lick the peanut butter from the spoon as if it were a full-fat lollipop. I loved all kinds of nut and seed butters; crunchy or creamy, salted or unsalted, it didn't matter. The coarse texture and full-fat flavor combined with sly joy to make delectable, stick-to-my-teeth perfection.
This love followed me into adulthood, although the habit didn't stay nocturnal. Almond, sunflower, hemp, hazel—both with and without chocolate—pumpkin, mixed nut. And then, straight out of summer, I found an unforeseeable love: watermelon seed butter. No longer solely the provenance of children engaged in seed-spitting contests, this butter—in which watermelon seeds are ground and jarred—has become one of my summertime staples.
88 Acres makes two organic versions: one roasted with sugar; one unsweetened. Paler and thinner than peanut butter, both look like blanched cousins of tahini. The unsweetened version of watermelon seed butter reminds me of puréed sesame, without the bitterness. Its relatively mild flavor makes it more adaptable than peanut butter, it adds texture to things like avocado toast, and it supplies eight grams of protein per serving, which is a grace for meatless days or lifestyles. The butter can pass for dessert, too. Slather it on a slab of multigrain toast and top with a hefty dollop of apricot jam, or spread it on a piece of chocolate with crumbled pretzels on top.
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Where watermelon seed butter shines, particularly the sweetened version, is between toast and grill. Spread some on a piece of bread, sprinkle it with coarse sugar, hit it with a moment of fire, and you have seed butter brulée: hot, cool, crisp, creamy, grainy, and defensibly healthy. For a breakfast of seedy luxury, slather the butter on a slice of toast, sprinkle grated chocolate on top, and slip it under the broiler just long enough to melt the chocolate. For a sweeter twist, use toasted pound cake instead of bread—and maybe even top with a scoop of gelato.
Though I love all of these variations, my favorite treat is a spoonful of watermelon seed butter in a mug. It's a mid-afternoon protein boost with hints of childhood and illicit after-hours bites, but these days, I don't have to sneak it into my room.