Summertime, and the melons are juicy.
There are at least 25 kinds of melons in this world, from Bailan to Winter Melons, from Canary to Crenshaw, from Apollo to Santa Claus. But in this country, when we talk about melons — something we do not do often enough, to my way of thinking — we talk about the Big Three: cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon.
By themselves, or preferably with a squeeze of lime or lemon juice, these melons cannot be beat. So sweet. So pure.
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The challenge lies in knowing what to do with them other than serving them au naturale. And there are several good options: puree them into a cold soup, freeze them into a refreshing granita, serve them as a sweet element in a salad.
All of which are excellent ideas. But they are also kind of … expected. Been there, eaten that.
So if we are going to break out of the melon rut, we’ll have to find unusual ways of presenting them, new preparations that still bring out the best of the fruit.
Here are a few ideas to consider.
SPAGHETTI AL MELONE
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
1 pound spaghetti pasta
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan
1 (2-pound) cantaloupe, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, diced into 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature
1/4 cup whiskey
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and place in a serving bowl. Add the Parmesan and toss well.
Place the cantaloupe in a food processor and blend until chunky. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, heat the cream and butter over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the butter melts and the mixture is smooth, 2 minutes. Add the melon, whiskey and lemon juice. Simmer until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and 1 / 2 teaspoon pepper.
Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss until coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
Per serving (based on 6): 620 calories; 30 g fat; 18 g saturated fat; 93 mg cholesterol; 19 g protein; 63 g carbohydrate; 9 g sugar; 2 g fiber; 1,295 mg sodium; 258 mg calcium.
Recipe from Food Network, by Giada De Laurentiis
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
1/4 seedless watermelon, rind removed and peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces, flesh reserved
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 cup fish sauce
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
6 cloves garlic
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
1/2 medium onion
1 cup Korean chili flakes
1 bunch scallions, sliced
Sprinkle the watermelon rind with the salt and toss to combine. Set aside for at least 30 minutes until the moisture has drawn out. If you want a salty-spicy combination, drain the rind and pat dry with paper towels. If you want just spicy, rinse the rind before patting dry with paper towels.
Add 1 cup of the watermelon flesh, fish sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger and onion to a food processor. Pulse until combined. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the Korean chili flakes. Add the drained watermelon rind and the scallions and toss to combine. Transfer to a jar and let it rest for at least 12 hours before serving. Refrigerate after a couple of days.
Per serving (based on 10): 58 calories; 2 g fat; 0 g saturated fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 3 g protein; 11 g carbohydrate; 6 g sugar; 3 g fiber; 2,286 mg (if unrinsed) sodium; 24 mg calcium.
Recipe from Food Network Kitchens
Cantaloupe fruit shake
Yield: 3 servings
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cantaloupe, peeled, seeded and cut into large chunks (about 2 cups)
1 cup milk
3 cups ice
Place sugar in a blender and blend for 10 to 15 seconds. Add cantaloupe, milk and ice, and blend until smooth and slushy, about 30 seconds. Serve in tall glasses.
Per serving: 82 calories; 3 g fat; 2 g saturated fat; 8 mg cholesterol; 3 g protein; 25 g carbohydrate; 24 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 57 mg sodium; 106 mg calcium.
Recipe by Daniel Neman
Grilled chicken breasts with honeydew salsa
Yield: 4 servings
1 1/3 cups finely diced, peeled and seeded honeydew or other melon
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro plus 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons finely grated lime peel
1 teaspoon finely chopped seeded serrano chile
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
4 boneless chicken breast halves with skin
Combine diced melon, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, finely diced red onion, lime juice, olive oil, grated lime peel and chopped serrano chile in medium bowl. Toss to blend flavors. Season melon salsa to taste with salt and pepper.
Spray grill with nonstick vegetable oil spray; prepare barbecue (medium heat). Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Grill chicken breasts until skin is crisp and brown and chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Slice chicken breasts and arrange on plates. Top with melon salsa and cilantro leaves and serve.
Per serving: 283 calories; 15 g fat; 3 g saturated fat; 82 mg cholesterol; 30 g protein; 7 g carbohydrate; 5 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 81 mg sodium; 23 mg calcium.
Recipe by Bon Appetit
BEEF AND WATERMELON STIR-FRY
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
1 pound sirloin strip steak, cut into thin strips
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons cold water
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons dry white wine, divided
2 tablespoons hot water
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 medium-size sweet onion, halved and sliced
12 ounces fresh sugar snap peas
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
16 ounces watermelon, cut into sticks (about 2 cups)
2 cups hot cooked rice
Toss together steak, garlic, cornstarch, cold water, soy sauce, sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of the wine. Let stand 30 minutes. Meanwhile, stir together hot water, hoisin and the remaining 1 tablespoon wine.
Remove beef from marinade, discarding marinade. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper; cook half of beef in 1 1/2 teaspoons hot canola oil in a large skillet over high heat, without stirring, 45 seconds or until browned; turn beef, and cook 30 seconds or until browned. Transfer to a warm plate. Repeat with another 1 1/2 teaspoon oil and beef.
Stir-fry onion in remaining 1 tablespoon hot canola oil in skillet over medium-high heat 2 minutes or until tender. Add sugar snap peas, ginger and crushed red pepper; stir-fry 2 minutes. Add beef and hoisin mixture; stir-fry 1 minute or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in watermelon. Add salt, black pepper and red pepper to taste. Serve immediately with hot cooked rice.
Per serving (based on 6): 391 calories; 18 g fat; 5 g saturated fat; 73 mg cholesterol; 24 g protein; 30 g carbohydrate; 9 g sugar; 3 g fiber; 519 mg sodium; 63 mg calcium.
Recipe from Southern Living