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Melons Pair with Sweet or Savory

Jun 27, 2016 11:58AM ● Published by Lesley Stiles

Melons Pair with Sweet or Savory

Wow, summer is here, and the living is hot! And easy! Cucumbers and tomatoes are coming on faster than I can get them in jars, while peaches, nectarines, and plums beg to be jammed. Eggplant in all sizes, shapes, and hues captivate eyes with imagination, while ideas of baba ganoush and dainty rolls of grilled eggplant and thin slices of fresh mozz, showered with basil chiffonade, aren't far behind. Peppers are nearing peak, dazzling with endless shades of red, purple, green, and yellow.

Relentless midsummer sun in California’s Central Valley blazes down on summer loving produce in the fields, forcing intense sugars to run like lava through the veins of all fruits and vegetables caught in life-giving rays, especially seasonal melons. Seemingly available year round worldwide, the real, true melons in the house are only around for a few special months.

Dating back centuries from the Middle East, with flavors crossing cantaloupe and honeydew, and trailing nuances of mangos, pink fleshed melons, as well as white, orange or yellow varieties are majestic indeed. An image of cubes of melons, hand-fed to lolling, scantily clad ancient Egyptian rulers, as they decided the fates of civilizations, could indeed detour one from eating them. Don’t let it though, as the rewards of this culinary gem are worth every bite.

Deep summer is peak season for melons, and tables bow under their weight at farmers’ markets. Varieties of melon marry well with ginger, citrus, vanilla, and salt, making it a virtual foil for dang near any sweet and savory combination. Classically prepared melon fingers wrapped with pristine slices of prosciutto and drizzled with lemon and cracked sea salt, regardless of reconcilability, must not be overlooked in quests for modern preparations. Frozen cubes of melons blended with tequila and lime produce a sublime margarita. Tossed with feta cheese, rice vinegar, and chiffonade basil and tossed with tender arugula creates a perfect salad for summer al fresco fetes. Macerate chunks with crystallized ginger and vanilla bean, then lavishly drape over ice cream to take sundaes to a new level. Chilled, pureed melon and cucumber soup, garnished with mint and crème fraiche, has a total personality break down between antipasti and dessert.

Corn is whacking out currently as well, and corn fritters are probably the most requested dish I have in my catering repertoire. Easy and lusciously decadent, they use the best produce summer has to offer. Hike early and often so you can eat many.

A California Culinary Academy graduate, sustainable caterer and school garden educator, Lesley may be reached at lesleystiles@comcast.net, www.lesleystiles.blogspot.com or her new website, www.lesleystiles-foods.com.

Corn Fritters

1½ cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 large eggs

¾ cup milk

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups fresh corn kernels

2 tablespoons each chopped parsley and chopped basil

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the center and put eggs, oil and milk in center. Whisk together and add corn and herbs.  Put enough oil in a frying pan to grease well. Fry the fritters a few at a time until golden on each side. Serve with Sweet and Sour Tomatoes.

 Sweet and Sour Tomatoes

2 pounds of assorted heirloom tomatoes, seeded and cut into chunks

1 bunch green onions, sliced thin

2 tablespoons of chopped, fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons of honey

¼ cup of seasoned rice vinegar

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 teaspoon of kosher salt

1 ½ generous teaspoon each of cinnamon and cumin

Put tomatoes, green onions and cilantro in a bowl and set aside. Heat olive oil in a sauce pan. Add spices and heat until bubbly, about 2 minutes. Slowly add honey and rice vinegar. Cook for 3 more minutes or until a little thick and gooey. Pour mixture over tomatoes, cilantro, and green onions. Season with salt and let sit for about 15 minutes before using.



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