Melons are summertime’s gift to us, an apology for the heat and humidity.
You already know about cantaloupe wrapped with prosciutto (if you don’t, take a chunk of cantaloupe, wrap it in a thin slice of prosciutto and eat.). Perhaps you’ve had a honeydew smoothie (blend honeydew melon with crushed ice and milk. It’s a remarkably refreshing treat). And if you haven’t had chicken or tuna salad mounded in half of a small cantaloupe, now is the time to start.
To celebrate the joy of all things melon, I went a slightly different route. I stuck close to the light-and-healthful basics, with melon-rich salads and a silken panna cotta for dessert.
A picante three-melon salad is sweet, sour, salty and spicy. It is also gorgeous. Bite-sized cubes of red watermelon, yellow watermelon (or cantaloupe, if you can’t find it) and honeydew bring vibrancy to the plate, while the flavor is enhanced with lime juice and rind, salt, chili powder and just a small amount of minced chipotle chilies.
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Spicy heat is mostly provided by a minced serrano chili (a jalapeño will make it less hot), with additional flavor coming from onions and cilantro.
Arugula is a wonderful foil for melon. Honeydew and arugula salad is one of those cases of opposites that play very well together.
The primary feature of arugula is that it is peppery. The primary feature of melon is that it is sweet. Put the two together and you have an irresistible combination, especially when topped with a cool dressing made from puréed honeydew, mayonnaise, lime juice and plenty of fresh herbs. Changing the mixture of herbs will give you a different dressing every time.
For dessert, there is a cantaloupe panna cotta. It is a semisolid but somewhat quivering chilled dessert made with cream — or milk, if you must, and in this case some Greek yogurt is added to make it a bit tangy. If you don’t like it tangy, stick with the cream. Or the milk.
Most of the flavor, in this case, comes from puréed cantaloupe (or other melon), sweetened with honey. Powdered gelatin will help it set, so it is important to find a good bowl to make a mold; keep it pretty if you can. Serve with mixed berries.
PICANTE THREE-MELON SALAD
3 cups red cubed, seeded watermelon
3 cups yellow cubed, seeded watermelon, see note
3 cups cubed honeydew melon
½ cup chopped white onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 finely chopped, seeded serrano or jalapeño pepper
1 teaspoon grated lime rind
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon chili powder
1/8 to ¼ teaspoon minced chipotle chili (from a can in adobo sauce)
Note: If you can’t find yellow watermelon, use cantaloupe.
1. Combine watermelons (and cantaloupe, if using), honeydew, onion, cilantro and serrano in a large bowl.
2. In a small bowl, combine rind, juice, salt, chili powder and minced chipotle. Pour juice mixture over melon mixture, and toss well. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.
— From Cooking Light
CREAMY CANTALOUPE PANNA COTTA WITH MIXED BERRIES
1 cantaloupe, peeled, seeded, flesh cut into large pieces
1 tablespoon unflavored powdered gelatin (1 packet plus ½ teaspoon)
½ cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt, see note
¾ cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons honey, divided
1 cup blackberries, see note
1 cup blueberries, see note
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
Note: If you want it sweeter, use ½ cup heavy cream, half-and-half or whole milk instead of the yogurt. Use the ripest berries you can find; raspberries or strawberries would also work.
1. In a blender, purée cantaloupe until smooth. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing lightly on solids (you should have about 2 cups of purée); discard solids. Pour 1/3 cup juice into a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the top; let sit five minutes. Meanwhile, whisk yogurt into remaining juice.
2. In a small saucepan, bring cream, 2 tablespoons of the honey, and a pinch of salt to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk in gelatin mixture and cook until gelatin dissolves, about one minute. Whisk cream mixture into yogurt mixture and divide among six (6-ounce) bowls or ramekins. Refrigerate until set, 2½ hours or overnight.
3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine remaining 1 tablespoon honey, blackberries, blueberries and orange juice. With the back of a fork, lightly mash berries to release their juices. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
4. To unmold panna cottas, run a small knife around the outside edge of each bowl and invert onto a serving plate, gently shaking from side to side to release. Serve with berries and juices.
— From Martha Stewart Everyday Food
HONEYDEW AND ARUGULA SALAD
½ honeydew melon
1/3 cup mixed fresh herbs
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons lime juice
10 ounces baby arugula
Salt and pepper
Cut honeydew into small, thin pieces. Purée ½ cup of the melon pieces with the herbs, mayonnaise, lime juice and salt and pepper. Toss this mixture with the baby arugula and add the rest of the melon pieces. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
— From Food Network Magazine