With their crisp, cool and refreshing qualities, melons evoke the essence of summer pleasure. We enjoy them in a multitude of ways, from simply chilled and eaten as hand-to-mouth wedges, to colorful melon-ball skewers for utensil-free eating at outdoor barbecues, to tequila-, vodka- or rum-injected watermelon for libationary delight.
In the past few years we have been seeing several exciting and sexy melon varieties at the markets. One kind I tried recently was a small lemony-yellow oval variety called a Korean melon (dua gan); it has a very fragrant smell and mild sweet flavor. And the French Charentais has to be one of the most aromatic and flavorful melons I have ever had.
Ripe, juicy and cold melons are of course delicious when eaten “as is”—but they perform well when starring in recipes, too. My new favorite way to enjoy melon is in Thai Chilled Melon Soup with Shrimp and fragrant herbs. Smooth and rich-tasting with the addition of coconut milk, slightly spicy and bold-spiked from Thai red curry paste, and flagrantly flavored with ginger and lemongrass, this cold soup is topped with a pouf of sweet bay shrimp and crunchy water chestnuts seasoned up with lime juice, basil and mint.
My other all-time favorite watermelon recipe is chef Todd English’s. He embellishes a melon salad with the distinctive flavors of fennel, feta and kalamata olives contrasted against the cool red-glistening fruit.
And then there’s always melon enjoyed ALMOST naked … except for a sprinkling of sea salt, my Dish D’Lish French Seasoning Salt or Dish D’Lish Cha Cha Chipotle Lime Seasoning … Yum!
Enjoy them while you can; there’s nothing like summer’s fresh melons to cool you off on a hot day. ©2009 by Kathy Casey Food Studios®
Thai Chilled Melon Soup with Shrimp
Makes about 4 cups (6 starter servings)
3 cups chopped ripe cantaloupe or other orange-fleshed melon
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 Tbsp minced fresh lemongrass
1 tsp Thai red curry paste (we used Mae Ploy), or sub Asian chili paste
1 can (13 – 14 ounces) coconut milk (you can always sub light coconut milk)
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 pound bay shrimp or chopped cooked shrimp (about 3/4 cup)
1/4 cup tiny-diced water chestnuts (Fresh ones are great if you can find them!)
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
Garnish: fresh cilantro sprigs and lime wedges
In a food processor or blender, process the cantaloupe, sugar, ginger, lemongrass and curry paste until evenly pureed. Mix in the coconut milk, salt and lime juice.
In a small bowl, mix the topping ingredients together. Ladle soup into small bowls and spoon a pouf of topping into each serving. Garnish with cilantro sprigs. Pass lime wedges on the side. ©2009 by Kathy Casey Food Studios®
Todd English’s Watermelon, Fennel and Black Olive Salad with Feta Cheese
Makes 8 servings
4 cups seeded watermelon chunks
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced on a Japanese mandoline (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pitted kalamata olives
1 large red onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
1 bunch green onions, green part only, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Put the watermelon, fennel, olives, red onion, green onion, basil leaves, and feta in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and toss well. Divide among salad plates and serve immediately. Adapted from Star Palate: Celebrity Cookbook for a Cure, by Tami Agassi and Kathy Casey.