Benjamin Franklin, famours for his maxims, wrote in "Poor Richard's Almanack": "Men and melons are hard to know." There isn't any fooproof method to be sure that you have selected a perfect cantaloupe, but a few guidelines may help.
Avoid bruised or cracked fruit. The scar at the stem end should be smooth without any stem remaining, and the rind around the blossom end should yield to gentle pressure from the thumb. A ripe cantaloupe will have pleasant melon aroma. A coarse veining should stand out over the background rind, which is why in France this melon is referred to as "netted" or "embroidered."
Cantaloupes are in the market from May to October. They are seldom sold at their peak of ripeness, but they ripen well at home. To store melons for several days, keep them at 70 degrees, away from sunlight, and chill just before serving.
As you will see in the following recipes, melons can be served in a number of attractive ways from oen end of the meal to the other. Filled Cantaloupe Bowls With Fruit Dressing 2 cantaloupes 2 cups cottage cheese 1 cup strawberries, halved 1/2 cup seedless green grapes or fresh blueberries Fruit Dressing, recipe follows
Cut cantaloupes in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Spoon cottage cheese into each half. Top with strawberries and grapes or blueberries. Serve with dressing in a pitcher. Serves 4. Fruit Dressing 1/2 cup sugar 1 teaspoon paprika 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 cup cider vinegar 3/4 cup salad oil 2 teaspoons poppy seed, optional
In a small bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat sugar and next 4 ingredients until just mixed. At medium speed, slowly beat in oil until thickened. Beat in poppy seed. Cover and refrigerate. Stir again just before serving. Makes about 1 1/4 cups.
Cantaloupe halves, cut with sawtooth edges and the seeds scooped out, make excellent containers for chilled summer fruit soups. They should be turned upside down on paper towels to drain, then covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated until ready to serve. Here is a soup that combines two of the prettiest melons, cantaloupe and honeydew: Melon Medley Soup 3 cups ripe cantloupe, coarsely chopped 3 cups ripe honeydew melon, coarsely chopped 4 cups fresh orange juice 1/3 cup lime juice 3 tablespoons honey Whipped cream, sour cream or yogurt Mint leaves
Finely chop 1 1/2 cups each of cantaloupe and honeydew melon. Set aside. Place remaining cantaloupe and honeydew in blender with orange juice, lime juice , and honey. Puree for only a few seconds. Pour into a large bowl. Stir in reserved melon. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled.
Pour into chilled bowls. Garnish each with a spoonful of whipped cream, sour cream, or yogurt and fresh mint leaves. Tuna Salad in Cantaloupe Boats 27-ounce cans tuna, drained and broken in chunks 1 1/2 cups celery, chopped 1 green onion with top, sliced thin 1/3 cup mayonnaise, or enough to bind 3 tablespoons lemon juice Salt and pepper 2 large ripe chilled cantaloupes, halved lengthwise and seeded
In mixing bowl, combine lightly tuna, celery, green onion, mayonnais, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Cover and chill until serving time.
Just before serving, sprinkle cantaloupes with remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Fill with tuna salad. If desired, served with watercress sprigs. Serves 4. Curried Cantaloupe and Shrimp 4 cantaloupes 6 teaspoons curry powder 1/2 cup heavy cream 1/2 cup mayonnaise 26-ounce cans shrimp, or 12 ounces cooked fresh shrimp
Cut melons in half. Removed seeds. Scoop cantaloupe flesh into small balls and reserve the shells. Mix curry powder and heavy cream, mayonnaise, and shrimp. Add the melon balls and put the entire mixture back into the melon shells. Cool in refrigerator before serving. Serves 6 to 8. Cantaloupe Ice 2 medium cantaloupes, peeled and seeded 1/2 cup sugar 3 tablespoons lemon juice 1/2 teaspoon salt
Cut cantaloupes into chunks to make about 6 cups. In covered blender container at medium speed, blend chunks and remaining ingredients, a little at a time, until smooth. Stop occasionally and scrape container with rubber spatula. Pour cantaloupe mixture into an 8-by-8-inch or 9-by-9-inch baking pan. Cover with foil or plastic wrap. Freeze until firm.
About 30 minutes before serving, remove ice from freezer and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes, occasionally breaking up mixture with spoon.In large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat mixture until smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Spoon into chilled dessert dishes.Serve at once. Makes 5 cups or 10 servings.