Summer’s Harvest: Cantaloupe Stars In This Simple, Elegant Dessert

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If ever there’s a time when local melons are in season, now is that time.  So, I suggest that you run, not walk, to your nearest market and pick up a melon or two. They’re so useful. Purée for refreshing soup, freeze for granita, cut up for fruit salad, or just slice and eat as is. Here, I’ve paired cantaloupe with blackberries and raspberries for an elegant dessert. The only thing I added was a bed of coconut cream under the berries (to make coconut cream, whip with a fork the thick, creamy part of coconut milk, add just a bit of maple syrup, leave the watery part for another use).

I can think of few things more delicious than a sweet, ripe cantaloupe. To find that perfect melon, first of all, start with local melons. They’re far more likely to be ripe than ones picked green and shipped from afar.  After that, use your senses–sight, smell and touch. The overall look of the melon should be creamy beige–not green. Also, of course, inspect for soft spots and mold. Smell the melon up close, does it smell like a cantaloupe? If so, you’ve got a good one. However, if it smells really strong, it’s probably too ripe. Keep in mind that melons stored at very cool temperatures will have less of an aroma, so smell is only one indication. Touch is the sense I find most useful in selecting cantaloupes. Press the melon lightly with a thumb, a really hard melon was probably picked too soon and may never ripen properly. Pay particular attention to the round, indented area at the melon’s stem end. Press in there, it should give way slightly,  but if this area is actually soft, your melon is likely over ripe. Even melons which are nearly ripe can benefit from sitting a day or two at room temperature. After that, wash well, slice open, scoop out the seeds and cut the juicy flesh into bite-size pieces. Cantaloupe pieces will keep well for several days stored in a covered container in your fridge, and they make handy snacks for adults and kids alike.

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