Food: A melon by any other name
THE KITCHEN DIVA
Fresh or frozen pineapple, papaya, kiwi, figs, guava and ginger root all contain enzymes that prevent gelatin from setting, so never use them in gelatin recipes. If you don’t have strawberries on hand, you can use a cup of any canned fruits or juices, since the canning process kills this enzyme.
1 large cantaloupe or honeydew melon
1 package (3 ounces) strawberry-banana gelatin (or your choice of gelatin flavor)
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries, leaves and stems removed
1. Cut the melon in half lengthwise from bud to stem end; discard seeds. Cut a thin slice off the bottom of each half so the melon sits level. Pat the inside of the melon dry and turn it melon-side down on a paper towel to drain thoroughly.
2. In a large bowl, dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Stir in applesauce and strawberries. Pour into melon halves. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
3. Just before serving, carefully slice each melon half into three wedges. Any extra gelatin can be poured into a bowl, covered with plastic wrap and chilled until set. Makes 6 servings.
Crenshaw, Musk, Honeydew, Casaba, Water, Persian … the list of melons that are grown these days is long. Melons come in a many sizes, shapes, colors and flavors. Sweet, watery and cooling, they’re a gift of the summer harvest that quenches our thirst with a food we can practically drink and eat at the same time!
Melons prefer hot, dry days and cool evenings to produce the sugar that gives them their nectarous flavor. Depending on where you live, a ripe, juicy, truly sweet melon may be a gift of the harvest at your local grocery store. While melons transport well, they must be harvested for shipping while still green. Sometimes this works well, other times not, and it can be just another case of falling for beauty that is only skin deep.
When choosing melons at the store, press and smell the spot where the fruit was severed from the stem. It should give slightly to the touch and exude a pleasant perfume. Almost all melons, except watermelons, can be judged this way.
Looking for a good watermelon is a little more difficult. There is science behind the “thumping” of a watermelon to test for ripeness. A ripe melon will give off a hollow sound, which indicates that the melon has developed its water content.
All melons should feel heavy for their size, a sign that they are full of juice. Locally grown melons also will have a flat, yellow spot on one side where it lay as it ripened in the field.
Melons are an ancient fruit, first cultivated in Asia and Africa over 4,000 years ago. From there they were introduced to western and northern Europe. Watermelons in particular provided an important source of water to primitive people, and it is believed that the first watermelons were brought to the Americas by African slaves.
As a group, melons are a truly beneficial food. They are low in calories and high in potassium, as well as vitamins A and C. They also are a delicious source of fiber. Watermelons are high in lycopene, the pigment that gives them that beautiful pinkish-red color. Lycopene has been shown to help prevent heart disease and some cancers.
Even though most melons are known for their sweetness, their flavor melds well with savory ingredients: mixed with herbs and vinegars in salads, or paired with cured meats such as prosciutto and salami for an appetizer. For dessert, the options go from simply scooping the seeds from half a cantaloupe and replacing it with a dollop of ice cream or yogurt, to combining melons with other fruits to serve with a pudding or cream, or pureeing melons for sorbets and ices.
My recipe for Jellin’ Melons is an easy, kid-friendly dessert, and the perfect way to showcase the best of summer melons.
Angela Shelf Medearis’ newest cookbook is “The Kitchen Diva’s Diabetic Cookbook.” Her website is http://www.divapro.com. To see how-to videos, recipes and much, much more, Like Angela Shelf Medearis, The Kitchen Diva! on Facebook and go to Hulu.com. Read Gina Harlow’s Blog about food and gardening at http://www.peachesandprosciutto.com. Recipes may not be reprinted without permission from Angela Shelf Medearis.
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