Saturday, June 15, 2024

It’s time to take advantage of the abundance of cantaloupe

Cantaloupe is what I’m eating lots of now, which makes me very happy as it’s always been one of my very favorite fruits. And while I will admit I still get annoyed that there are so few other types of melon available where I live (other than sandia and once in a while a few honeydews), I figure mangos kind of make up for it.

My Mom, a Missouri farm girl, taught me that the way to find a ripe cantaloupe was to smell it — they should smell sweet and delicious and be fairly heavy in your hand. Some say the stem end should give lightly when pressed, but I can never feel that. Depending on the variety of cantaloupe, you can also look for the rind to have a yellowish golden glow under a greenish “netting” when it’s ripe.

It’s not surprising that Mexico is a big producer of cantaloupe, and the states of Guerrero, Durango, Coahuila, Sonora and Michoacán grow almost all of them. (Why no one grows Gaia, Crenshaw or Sharlyn melons is beyond me! But I digress.) Muskmelons are actually a different variety and are not the same as cantaloupe, although they can look quite similar.

Another confession: I’ve never cooked cantaloupe, or even eaten it cooked. I just love it as-is,  cold and sweet, with yogurt, in a fruit salad or smoothie or made into agua fresca. Will I try grilling some? Will I make a Cantaloupe Crumble or quick bread? We shall see.

A word of caution: Always wash, scrub or soak cantaloupes in disinfectant. Even though you’re eating the interior flesh, the rind can contain risky bacteria, in particular salmonella, that can be transmitted by the knife you’re cutting it with.

What's better than a fresh sweet cantaloupe?
What’s better than a fresh sweet cantaloupe?

Cantaloupe Cucumber & Feta Salad

  • 1 cantaloupe
  • 1 cucumber, peeled or scored
  • 2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon or 2-3 limones
  • Pinch salt
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped

Use a melon baller or cut melon into small cubes and put in a large bowl. Cut cucumber into thin half-moons and add to bowl. Whisk olive oil, lemon juice and salt separately, then add to fruit; tossing gently. Top with feta and basil and serve.

Cantaloupe Granita

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 2 cantaloupes (about 3 pounds each)

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, heat sugar and water, stirring, until dissolved, 1–2 minutes; set aside. Coarsely chop melon. In a blender or food processor, purée melon with sugar syrup until smooth (to yield about 6 cups); pour into large, shallow dish.

Freeze, stirring and breaking up crystals with a fork every 30 minutes, until entire mixture is frozen and crystallized, about 3 hours.

Grilled Cantaloupe with Prosciutto and Mozzarella

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • One 2-pound cantaloupe, peeled & sliced into 1-inch thick wedge
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto
  • ¾ lb. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • Parsley, minced, for garnish

Light a grill and brush with oil. Brush melon wedges with oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Grill over high heat, turning once, until lightly charred, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a platter; top with prosciutto and mozzarella. Garnish with parsley, pepper and a drizzle of oil.

Salty Melon Slush

  • 1 cantaloupe, cubed
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 small bunch mint, washed, stemmed
  • Juice from 2-3 limes
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 shots alcohol (vodka, rum, gin, whiskey)

Freeze cantaloupe on wax paper-lined baking sheet for 1–2 hours. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine sugar and mint with ¼ cup water; cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves. (Syrup will turn light green.) Strain syrup; discard mint.

When ready to serve, purée melon, syrup, lime juice, salt, alcohol in a blender till slushy.

Cantaloupe Salsa

Serve with chips or over grilled fish or chicken.

  • 1 cup finely chopped cantaloupe
  • ½ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • ¼ cup finely chopped red onion
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint, cilantro or combination
  • 1 Tbsp. minced jalapeno
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • ¼ tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

cantaloupe slush
A cantaloupe slush is the perfect cooling drink for the summer weather.

Cantaloupe Margarita

  • 4½ cups cantaloupe cubed
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice
  • 1½ ounces (3 Tbsp.) Cointreau
  • ¾ cup blanco tequila
  • 3 mint sprigs

Blend cantaloupe, lime juice, Cointreau and tequila until very smooth. Fill 3 glasses with ice, pour in margarita mixture, garnish with a mint sprig. Best served immediately.

Cantaloupe Crunch

  • 3 cups finely cubed cantaloupe
  • ⅓ cup lemon/lime juice
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. flour
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 1 (18.25 oz.) package white cake mix
  • ½ cup butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a medium bowl, mix cantaloupe, citrus juice, sugar, flour, 2 Tbsp. melted butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. Transfer to a 9-inch square baking dish; sprinkle dry cake mix evenly over top. Drizzle remaining melted butter over cake mix.

Bake 45 minutes or until top is golden brown.

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