Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Melons are tricky fellows. By nature, they are secretive, hiding their true nature under thick skins. I've all but given up on honeydew melons that rarely deliver on the sultry promise of their musky scent, but I still have hope for cantaloupes. Mind you, I did not have any expectations for this particular melon. It was the second of a pair, the two for $5 melons sold at the grocery, not a local guy from the growers market or even from a roadside stand.
A few days ago, I had sliced open his twin, and it was oh-so average. Sweet enough, toothsome enough, but nothing special. It worked in cantaloupe soup, providing the right color and texture, but the other ingredients had to make up for what that particular cantaloupe lacked.
I had almost forgotten the second melon, and I certainly wasn't drooling in anticipation. In fact, I was pretty much resigned to encountering an inferior melon, and I figured that if it wasn't very good, there was plenty of time to chill a bowl of cantaloupe soup for dinner.
However, when my knife bisected the fruit, out wafted the unmistakable aroma of the perfect cantaloupe. As I trimmed off the rind, I could feel the perfect amount of resistance, not too crisp, not too mushy. I had to sit down and savor the moment.
When I had eaten my fill, I put the rest in the refrigerator for my spouse who prefers his fruit cold. After all, it was the perfect size for the two of us.
If you encounter a less-than-spectacular melon, though, there is hope. When life gives you mediocre cantaloupe, make cantaloupe soup.

Cantaloupe Soup
1 ripe cantaloupe, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 cup plain Greek yogurt (full-fat, low-fat, or non-fat)
Agave nectar, to taste (If the melon is very sweet, you'll only need a tablespoon or so, but the beauty of using agave nectar is that it can be stirred in easily even after the soup has chilled.)
1/4 cup Midori (melon liquor), optional
a pinch of sea salt (trust me, it will make the flavors pop)
a pinch of Mishmish N.33 (an amazing spice blend that includes crystalized honey, lemon, and saffron--it is expensive, but it goes a looong way), optional--but if you don't have it, consider adding a bit of finely grated lemon rind

All the ingredients will not fit into a blender, so you have two options. Put everything in a bowl, mix together, and add 1/3 to the blender at a time. Blend at high speed until the cantaloupe is completely liquified. Pour the blended ingredients into a clean bowl or pitcher. Stir to make sure everything is well combined.
OR Put all ingredients into a large bowl and use an immersion blender to liquify the cantaloupe and blend all ingredients.
Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. If you are unsure if it is sweet enough, wait until it is chilled and taste again.
Note that the quantities are general guidelines for a medium cantaloupe. If your melon is larger or smaller, adjust the amount of orange juice and yogurt appropriately.

Refrigerate for up to two days.

You can serve as a smoothie (don't add the Midori if you plan to serve to children!) or as a soup. I like to serve it in a shallow soup bowl, topped with a swirl of marscapone cheese that I've loosened by stirring and adding maple syrup to taste. A few blueberries sprinkled around the edges elevates this to party-worthy fare.

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