This is the time of year for wonderful fruits and vegetables: corn, squash, tomatoes, berries.
But nothing says summer like sweet, juicy melons, and August is their peak month.
On The Early Show Wednesday, John Willoughby, executive editor of Gourmet magazine (http://magazine-directory.com/Gourmet.htm), noted that there are many, many more types of melon than most people realize! Indeed, watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe are merely the beginning!
And he shared some tips on selecting them, and unusual recipes.
Believe it or not, watermelon and pumpkin squash are related! Melons, squashes, and cucumbers are members of the gourd family; they all grow on vines. While squashes are treated as vegetables, melons are considered fruits-sweet and juicy. Most melons originated in the Near East.
Melons are often treated as a sweet flavoring, but there are versatile ingredients you can use for savory dishes, as well.
How to you pick melons to buy? The old wives' tale about watermelon is that you should thump it, and it should sound "hollow." No one is sure why, but Willoughby says he does it because his mother did, as did her mother.
With other melons, such as cantaloupe, smell where the stem was; it should have a nice, sweet smell. Be careful to also note any soft spots. The cantaloupe or honeydew should have nice firmness with a slight give -- not too much.
Also, Willoughby doesn't suggest storing your melons in the fridge. You should keep them out at room temperature, but for no more than three or four days.
Types of melons Willoughby brought along included Savor French, Sucre de Melon, Sugar Nut, Sun Jewel, Red Watermelon with seeds, Red Seedless Watermelon, Yellow Watermelon, Cantaloupe, Juan Canary, Green Honeydew, Golden Honeydew, Orange Flesh Honeydew, Santa Clause, Casaba, Galia, Crenshaw, Kiwano (Horned Melon), Sharlyn Melon, Large Mexican Papaya, Small Hawaiian Papaya, Can-A-Dew (Cantaloupe Skin with Honeydew green flesh), Passport or Rock Sweet (Another cantaloupe/honeydew cross with smooth yellow/orange skin), Chantarais, and Athena.
HONEYDEW MELON IN COCONUT MILK
1 (13- to 14-oz) can well-stirred unsweetened coconut milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
1 large honeydew melon (5 lb), chilled
Garnish: julienned lime zest
Special equipment: a melon-ball cutter
Stir together coconut milk, sugar, and lime juice in a small metal bowl until sugar is dissolved, then quick-chill in a metal bowl set in a larger bowl of ice and cold water, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes.
Halve melon and discard seeds. Scoop melon into balls with cutter.
Divide melon among 8 serving dishes, then pour coconut milk over top. Serve immediately.
Gourmet August 2002
The cool sweetness of this soup is a particularly good match for the tangy grilled chicken with mustard-dill sauce. Serve it with extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling.
Active time: 30 min Start to finish; 30 min serving size makes 4 to 6 first course servings.
1 (4-lb) piece watermelon, rind discarded and flesh cut into large chunks (7 cups)
1 1/2 cups ice cubes
3/4 cup whole blanched almonds
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
8 slices firm white sandwich bread, crusts discarded and bread torn into pieces
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Seed 1 cup watermelon chunks and cut into small dice. Purée remaining watermelon in a blender (in batches if necessary). Pour purée through a sieve into a bowl, pressing on solids, and discard seeds.
Return juice to blender and blend together with ice, almonds, and garlic (in batches if necessary) until smooth. Add bread, vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste and blend, adding oil in a slow stream, until smooth.
Top with diced watermelon.
Gourmet June 2000
Fresh and creamy all at once, this clever combination of rich ricotta ice cream and icy-cold watermelon chunks is a twist on the classic Creamsicle. Shaved bittersweet chocolate complements both flavors beautifully.
Serving size makes about 1 quart.
1 (15-oz) cold container whole-milk ricotta (1 2/3 cups) or 1 2/3 cups fresh ricotta
3 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup cold whole milk
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons dark rum
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold heavy cream
1 (4 1/2- to 5-lb) wedge of watermelon, cut into 1-inch-thick slices and chilled
1 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (from a 3-oz bar), shaved (1/4 cup)
Special equipment: an ice cream maker
Blend cheeses, milk, sugar, rum, zest, vanilla, and salt in a blender until smooth, about 1 minute. Add cream and blend until just combined, about 5 seconds.
Freeze mixture in ice cream maker, then transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden, at least 3 hours.
Put scoops of ice cream on watermelon slices and top with chocolate shavings.
Gourmet July 2006
WATERMELON, ARUGULA, AND PINE NUT SALAD
Active time: 15 min Start to finish; 15 min serving size makes 4 first-course serve
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon table salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups cubed (1/2 to 3/4 inch) seeded watermelon, drained (from a 2 1/2-lb piece, rind discarded)
6 cups baby arugula (6 oz)
1/4 cup pine nuts (1 oz)
1/3 cup crumbled feta or ricotta salata (1 1/2 oz)
Coarsely ground black pepper to taste
Fleur de sel to taste (optional)
Whisk together lemon juice, vinegar, and salt in a large bowl, then add oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified.
Add watermelon, arugula, and pine nuts and toss to coat, then sprinkle with cheese, pepper, and fleur de sel (if using).
Gourmet July 2004
This is a variation on the Sicilian classic gelo di melone, which is steeped with jasmine flowers. We substituted anise seeds but kept the traditional garnishes of chocolate shavings, pistachios, and whipped cream.
Active time: 30 min Start to finish; 4 hr (includes chilling) serving size Makes 6 servings.
6 cups coarsely chopped seeded watermelon (from a 4 1/2-lb piece, rind discarded)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon anise seeds
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1/3 cup heavy cream
Garnish: chopped shelled pistachios (not dyed red); white or dark chocolate shavings, removed with a vegetable peeler
Purée watermelon in a blender until smooth, then pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a 2-quart saucepan, pressing on pulp and then discarding any remaining solids.
Ladle about 1/4 cup watermelon juice into a small bowl and stir in cornstarch until smooth.
Bring remaining watermelon juice to a boil with 1/2 cup sugar and anise seeds, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Stir cornstarch mixture again, then whisk into boiling juice. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 minutes. Whisk in lemon juice.
Pour pudding through cleaned sieve into a bowl, then transfer to a wide 1-quart serving dish or 6 (2/3-cup) ramekins and chill, uncovered, until cold, about 30 minutes. Cover loosely and chill until set, at least 3 hours.
Just before serving, beat cream with remaining 1 teaspoon sugar in another bowl with an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks. Top pudding with whipped cream.
Cooks' note: Pudding can be chilled up to 1 day.
Gourmet July 2004
MELON, ARUGULA, AND SERRANO HAM WITH SMOKED PAPRIKA DRESSING
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (sweet or hot)*
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
5 tablespoons mild extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups 1-inch pieces cantaloupe flesh (from 2 1/2- to 3-lb melon)
4 cups 1-inch pieces honeydew flesh (from 2 1/2- to 3-lb melon)
4 large bunches arugula (1 1/2 lb), coarse stems discarded
8 oz sliced serrano ham (1/16 inch thick), cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-wide strips
Whisk together lime juice, paprika, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and add oil in a slow stream, whisking until well blended.
Toss cantaloupe and honeydew with half of dressing in a bowl. Toss arugula and ham with remaining dressing in a large bowl, then add melon and salt and pepper to taste, tossing gently. Serve immediately.
Cooks' note: It's important that the ham not be sliced as thin as prosciutto usually is. Slightly thicker ham is easier to cut into strips and will stay separated in a salad, instead of clumping together.
(Available by mail order through The Spanish Table (206-682-2827) and Tienda.com.)
Gourmet August 2001
WATERMELON WITH PARMESAN AND MINT
1 (4-lb) piece watermelon
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated with a rasp (3/4 cup)
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Cut watermelon lengthwise into narrow wedges about 1 1/2 inches wide, then cut wedges crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices (they will be tall and pointed). Trim rind to enable slices to stand upright.
Just before serving, stir together pepper and salt and sprinkle over slices. Stir together cheese and mint and sprinkle slices again.
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