The Sweet Pleasures of Melon: Cantaloupe

Ingredient Spotlight

It's not really summer until we've taken a big bite from a half-moon of cantaloupe and felt its syrupy juice drip awkwardly down our chins. It may not have the sexiness of the strawberry or the regular picnic-gig of the watermelon, but the sweet golden-hued summer cantaloupe still ranks up there as one of our all-time favorite fruits. How do you like to eat it?

My mother taught me to pick a ripe cantaloupe by lifting one up and inhaling its aroma close to the stem. It should feel heavy for is size, but not pulpy or off-balance (signs of an over-ripe melon). It's ok if it has a little give just around the stem, however.

The melon should smell sweet and floral, like something you want to rub your nose in. Odorless melons are meant to be put back on the pile for a less picky customer.

Most cantaloupes that enter my kitchen are destined for either eating by the slice or chopping up for fruit salad. A whole cantaloupe will keep on the counter for a few days (and fill your kitchen with its heady aroma), and cut cantaloupe will keep refrigerated for a week. There are few greater pleasures than eating ice-cold cubes of cantaloupe straight from the fridge with your fingers.

Cantaloupe makes a remarkably good companion to savory ingredients, like shavings of salty pecorino cheese or rosettes of prosciutto. Cantaloupe salsa goes well with grilled fish tacos, and cantaloupe gazpacho makes a light and summery starter.

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What do you like to do with cantaloupe?

Related: In Praise of the Melon Baller

(Image: Anne Hoychuck/Shutterstock)