MELONS MELONS AND MORE MELONS

It seems like every summer brings a new variety of melon to the marketplace. In addition to the old standbys, watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew, we now have Crenshaw, casaba, Galia, sprite, and an expanding variety of hybridized refrigerator friendly small versions of our old favorites. While delicious and refreshing on their own or with a squirt of lemon or lime juice, melon also makes an excellent addition to a variety of easy summer recipes. And with only 50 calories and .5g of fat per cup, these nutrient dense, water dense beauties deserve a place in your cooking arsenal.

Ripe melon will have an obvious couche, or area where the melon rested on the ground as well as an indentation where the melon separated from the vine. Ripe watermelon will sound hollow when tapped (experiment with this…compare melon sounds and see if you can hear the difference!). Ripe honeydew, cantaloupe and other similar melons will have a fresh melon odor near the stem end and will yield slightly to pressure when pressed. It’s best to buy melons whole when possible (hooray for those cute little fridge- sized watermelons!) since vital nutrients, especially vitamin C, diminish rapidly when exposed to air. Remember to wash the outside of all melons before cutting into them to prevent bacteria from the soil from getting into the melon flesh. Now let’s get cooking…

BROCHETTER OF MELON, PROCIUTTO, AND FRESH MOZZARELLA (adapted from www.epicurious.com )

½ cup mild extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves

1 medium shallot, quartered

1 small (about 2-pound) cantaloupe, seeded, peeled and cut into wedges

6 small fresh mozzarella balls

6 thin slices prosciutto, cut in half lengthwise

6 8-inch wooden skewers

Puree olive oil, basil, and shallot in food processor using on/off turns. Cut each cantaloupe wedge in half crosswise. For each skewer, alternate melon, prosciutto gathered into a fan-shape, mozzarella, prosciutto, melon. Arrange skewers on platter. Drizzle with basil oil, sprinkle with black pepper, and garnish with basil sprigs if desired.

CUCUMBER GAZPACHO WITH SHRIMP AND MELON (adapted from www.epicurious.com )

2 large cucumbers peeled and seeded (1 ¾ cucumber coarsely chopped plus ¼ cucumber cut into small dice for garnish)

2 scallions coarsely chopped

½ cup loosely packed fresh herbs of choice, such as basil, chives, mint, coarsely chopped

1 small garlic clove, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 (1/2-inch piece) fresh ginger, coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

¼ cup plain low-fat yogurt

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon hot sauce

¼ pound large shrimp, peeled, cooked, and cut into medium dice

½ cup seedless watermelon or cantaloupe, cut into small dice

In food processor, combine cucumber, scallions, herbs, ginger, garlic, olive oil, and yogurt and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Stir in ½ teaspoon salt, pepper, and hot sauce, the transfer to airtight container and refrigerate for 1-4 hours. In a small bowl, stir together shrimp, remaining cucumber, and remaining salt. Fold melon gently into soup. Divide soup among 4 bowls and top each with a spoonful of the shrimp mixture. Serve immediately.

WATERCRESS, MELON, AND ALMOND SALAD (adapted from Bon Appetit, August, 1996)

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon peeled minced fresh ginger

¼ cup expeller pressed canola oil

2 large bunches watercress, ends trimmed, roughly torn

2 ½ cups ½-inch cube watermelon

2 ½ cups ½-inch cube cantaloupe

1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Whisk lime juice, sugar, and ginger in large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in oil. Season dressing with salt and pepper to taste. Add watercress and melons to dressing and toss to coat. Transfer to salad plates or large serving platter and sprinkle with toasted almonds. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

WATERMELON, FETA, AND ARUGULA SALAD WITH BALSAMIC GLAZE (adapted from Bon Appetit, July 2009)

1 (5-ounce) package baby arugula

8 cups 3/4-inch cubes seedless watermelon

1 (7-ounce) package feta cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar glaze

Arrange arugula on large platter. Scatter watermelon, then feta over. Drizzle with balsamic glaze then sprinkle with pepper. Balsamic glaze is available in many markets near the vinegar. If you can’t locate any, you can make your own by boiling ¾ cup balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan until it is reduced to 3 tablespoons, about 6-7 minutes.

WATERMELON, JICAMA, AND JALAPENO SALAD

½ cup fresh lime juice

½ cup water

½ cup sugar

6 jalapenos, stemmed and cut into thin rounds (remove seeds or use less for less heat)

2 cups seeded cubed watermelon

1 ½ cups jicama, peeled and cut into matchsticks (about 1 small)

Fresh mint for garnish

Combine juice, water and sugar in small non-reactive saucepan. Boil over moderate heat for 15 minutes, or until thick and syrupy. Add the jalapenos and cook for about 5 minutes more. Cool syrup to room temperature. Arrange watermelon and jicama on platter. Drizzle syrup over salad and garnish with fresh mint. Serve chilled. Makes 4 servings.

MELON AND MINT TABBOULEH (adapted from Gourmet, July 2006)

1 cup boiling water

¾ cup fine bulgur

1 ½ cups loosely packed fresh mint leaves

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 cup ½- inch cubes firm-ripe honeydew

½ cup very thinly sliced red onion

½ teaspoon salt

Pour boiling water over bulgur in a bowl, then cover bowl tightly and let stand 30 minutes. Meanwhile, puree mint with oil in processor until smooth. Toss bulgur with mint oil, lime juice, honeydew, onion, and salt.

HONEYDEW MELON IN COCONUT MILK (adapted from www.epicurious.com )

1 (14 ounce) can well-stirred unsweetened coconut milk

3 tablespoons sugar

1 ½ teaspoons fresh lime juice

1 large honeydew, chilled, seeded, and scooped with melon- baller

Stir together coconut milk, sugar, and lime juice in small bowl until sugar dissolves. Quick-chill in a metal bowl set over a larger bowl of ice and cold water. Divide melon balls into 8 bowls, then pour coconut milk over top. Serve immediately. Garnish with mint if desired.

YOGURT MELON SHAKE (adapted from www.epicurious.com)

2 cups scooped out honeydew or cantaloupe

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 ½ cup vanilla frozen yogurt

Pinch salt

In blender, puree melon with lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Add frozen yogurt and blend shake until smooth. Makes 2 servings.

JERKED SHRIMP WITH MELON SALSA (adapted from www.epicurious.com )

6 large uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 teaspoons fresh lime juice

2 teaspoons jerk seasoning

¾ cup diced cantaloupe

¾ cup diced honeydew

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

¼ cup diced red onion

1 minced jalapeno, seeds removed (optional)

Prepare barbeque or grill pan. Toss shrimp in oil, 2 teaspoons of the lime juice, and jerk seasoning. Let marinate 10 minutes. Meanwhile, toss cantaloupe, honeydew, cilantro, red onion, jalapeno is using, and remaining lime juice in medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Thread shrimp in metal skewer and grill until opaque, occasionally brushing with marinade, about 5 minutes. Serve with salsa and lime wedges. Serves 2.

NECTARINES, STRAWBERRIES, AND MELON IN ORANGE-HONEY SPICED SYRUP (adapted from www.epicurious.com )

Peel from 2 large oranges, pith removed

2 cups water

1/3 cup honey

4 large whole star anise

1 cinnamon stick, broken in half

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

1 (4-pound) honeydew, halved, seeded

3 large nectarines, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices

1 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered

Combine 2 cups water, honey, star anise, and cinnamon stick in medium saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Bring to boil, stirring to dissolve honey. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced to 1 ½ cups liquid, about 8 minutes. Stir in orange peel. Cool syrup then strain into large bowl, discarding solids. Using melon baller, scoop out 4 cups of melon. Combine melon balls, nectarine slices, and strawberries in large bowl. Add syrup and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 5 hours and up to 8 hours to develop flavor. Garnish with orange peel if desired. Serves 8.

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