Simply Fresh–Week 11–Melons

Featured Item–Melons

We are so lucky to have melons grown at the farm, and this year they are abundant.  Once you get tired of cutting them up and eating them as is, you may be looking for alternate ways to utilize them in your meals.  Also, occasionally you may get one that isn’t the sweetest, and having a repertoire of potential dishes can eliminate the desire you might feel to simply throw unripe melon in the trash.

Melon is wonderful in the heat of summer.  It’s water content, added to its sweetness, is deliciously hydrating.  One of my favorite ways to use melon, especially melon that isn’t perfect for eating, is in drinks, particularly infused water and/or aqua fresca.  Below are recipes/instructions for both.

Infused water is simply a way to imbue boring old water with a hint of flavor (and also vitamins and minerals).  Simply place chopped fruit like melon at the bottom of a pitcher and fill it with filtered cold water.  Allow it sit for at least four hours to release the flavors.  Adding fresh herbs like cilantro, mint, thyme or basil can elevate the flavors even more.  Some of my favorite combinations are watermelon and thyme or mint, or cantaloupe and basil or mint.

Below is a recipe for basic aqua fresca, a refreshing, hydrating drink native to Mexico that typically blends melon flesh with water, lime juice, and a bit of sugar and then strains the mixture through a sieve to get a smooth, light, addictive drink.  This option is also good for fruit that isn’t perfectly ripe as you can adjust the sugar level to your taste.

To make agua fresca even more interesting, add some fresh herbs such as basil or mint before blending.

Basic Agua Fresca

INGREDIENTS:

– 4 cups diced peeled melon, watermelon, cantaloupe or honeydew
– 3 cups water
– 2-3 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice, to taste
– 1 tablespoon sugar or agave or sugar syrup, or more to desired taste

METHOD:

Blend fruit with half of water, 2 tablespoons lime juice, and sugar until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Mix in the rest of the water. Add more sugar or lime juice if desired. Refrigerate.

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Preparations for melon do not always have to be sweet.  Melons fare nicely in many kinds of savory dishes such as salsas and salads (just think of the classic combination of melon and prosciutto).

Below is a recipe for watermelon and tomatillo salsa, one of my favorites.  The salsa would also be good using cantaloupe instead of the watermelon, or mixing both together.

If you can’t find any jalapeño’s left in the field, use thai chiles.  However, be careful because they are much hotter than jalapeños so you will definitely want to use less.

 

Watermelon Tomatillo Salsa

INGREDIENTS:

– 3/4 to 1 cup tomatillos husked and rinsed, chopped into small pieces
– 2 cups seeded watermelon, chopped into small pieces
– 1 jalapeno, seeded, deribbed, and minced
– 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
– juice of 1/2 lime
– salt to taste

METHOD:

Mix ingredients in a medium bowl. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, or place in refrigerator for an hour or two before serving.

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Salads are another great way to incorporate melons into savory dishes.  Below is a unique recipe for orzo salad that uses both cantaloupe and celery from the farm.  This recipe is especially good for slightly underripe cantaloupe, if you happen to get one.

Cantaloupe and Celery Orzo Salad

INGREDIENTS:

– 1 cup whole wheat or regular dried orzo
– 1/2 small cantatoupe, chopped into 1/4″ pieces (about 2 cups)
– 3/4 cup minced celery and celery leaves
– 1 large shallot, minced
– Dressing:
– 2 tablespoons organic white wine vinegar
– 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
– 1 heaping teaspoon raw honey
– dash salt and pepper

METHOD:

1. Cook orzo in a pot of boiling salted water until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and rinse thoroughly to cool. Drain well.

2. To make dressing: Using a small blender or a hand held blender, blend dressing ingredients until thick and emulsified.

3. Place cool, drained orzo in a large bowl. Add cantaloupe, celery and shallots. Toss well with dressing. Taste and add a bit of extra vinegar or oil if needed. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate until cold. Best eaten the day it is made.

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Tomatillos and Hot Peppers

Need more ideas for tomatillos and hot peppers? How about hot sauce?

Hot sauces are fun and easy to make.  This particular green hot sauce is made with tomatillos and spicy thai chiles.  It goes great on burgers, makes a wonderful taco or burrito sauce, complements any kind of prepared eggs, elevates grilled meats, deliciously coats crispy chicken wings, or dazzles when drizzled into soup, chili or stews. This version is fairly hot, but if you like it blazing, add another chile pepper to the recipe.

Tomatillo Thai Chile Hot Sauce

INGREDIENTS:

– 1/2 medium onion, minced
– 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil
– small clove garlic, crushed
– 2 cups chopped husked and rinsed tomatillos
– 2 minced thai chiles, seeds and ribs included
– 2 tablespoons white vinegar
– 3/4 cup water
– 1/2 teaspoon salt

METHOD:

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium low heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to color. Add crushed garlic and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until tomatillos are very soft and mixture has thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Blend mixture until completely smooth. Strain sauce through a fine mesh strainer.

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