Melons make magnificent additions to any meal, any timePublished 12:01am Saturday, July 14, 2012
Recently my longtime friend, Alice, and I shared cooking a meal. She brought a beautiful, but also healthy, desert – melons. They are in season, and she said the local ones were so good. The recipe came from Lee Bailey’s Southern Food & Plantation Houses. It is a pretty coffee-table book with lovely pictures of homes in Natchez, Miss., with recipes for luncheons, elegant dinners, Sunday suppers, fish fries, barbecues, buffets, etc. Despite it being a pretty book the recipes are simple and tasty. Bailey is dead now, but long before Martha Stewart produced attractive books about how to entertain, he showed us glamorous cooking and beautiful presentations accessible to the uninitiated.
Bailey was born in Bunkie, La., where I also have a friend, but lived and worked in Manhattan and Long Island, N.Y. But, he didn’t forget his Southern roots. He had an aunt who lived in Natchez and visited her often. On a trip in the late 80s, he teamed up with the Pilgrimage Garden Club of Natchez to produce his Southern Food book. The melon recipe was for a lunch under the trees at Edgewood, an 1850s home in Natchez.
Use it for a family desert, for a buffet luncheon or dinner…or breakfast.
2 cups fresh blueberries
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon vodka
Dash of ground cinnamon (optional)
1 very large honeydew melon or any other good melon, peeled, seeded, and cut into medium-thin slices
Place the berries, sugar, lemon juice, vodka and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and cook slowly for 20 minutes. Cool, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Arrange melon slices on individual plates and put a line of sauce down the middle of each. (Alice used both honeydew and cantaloupe slices and added some sliced strawberries and decorated with mint.)
The July issue of ‘bon appétit’ had a great melon dessert with lime. Other ripe fruit can be used such as pineapple, peaches or plums. You can chill any leftover syrup for sweetening iced tea or cocktails.
½ cup sugar
4 sprigs mint plus small leaves for garnish
½ t. thinly sliced fresh red chili (such as jalapeño or Fresno)
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
½ cup fresh lime juice
½ 5-lb. melon (such as honeydew), peeled, halved, seeded, cut crosswise into ¼ “slices
Coconut, mango, or lemon sorbet (optional)
½ tsp. lime zest
Bring sugar and ¼ cup water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add mint sprigs and chili. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Remove syrup from heat; cover and let steep for 15 minutes for flavors to infuse.
Strain syrup through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl; stir in limejuice.
Do ahead: Syrup can be made one week ahead. Keep chilled.
Arrange melon slices in a 13x9x2” glass baking dish. Pour syrup over melon in baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for two hours to allow flavors to meld.
Divide melon slices among plates, overlapping them decoratively. Pour remaining syrup in dish into a small pitcher.
Do ahead: Melon carpaccio can be made up to five hours ahead. Cover and chill melon and remaining syrup separately. Drizzle some of syrup over melon. Place a scoop of sorbet in center of each plate, is using garnish with mint leaves and lime zest.
See what melons are in the market. Melons love heat and we have a lot of that. You might want to think of growing your own next year. I have planted Edisto Mystery (seed from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange) this year, said to do well in the hot humid conditions which prevail in my garden. It should be coming in soon.