Celebrating the Charentais Melon: Two Recipes!

As the summer steadily flows towards Fall, new crops are coming into season and reaching their full potential underneath the hot August sun.   This week, that same sun was shining down upon OurLocaltopia contributor Jonathan Duffy Davis’ garden.  Jonathan is a very talented biologist and farmer, and he invited me to take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly as his garden was growing.  Amidst the plants that had grown leggy, interspersed amongst yellowing leaves and in between the fertile tomato vines laid a hay-covered, hard-core melon patch.  It was beautiful.  The selection of melons was so spectacular and abundant… I couldn’t help but get excited.  These were serious melons!  The “Sugar Baby” watermelons weren’t ripe, yet were colored a verdant, deep green with no variegation (I hope to be able to post about them at a later time; they contain so much sugar that they were literally sweating sugary nectar through their skin.  I couldn’t believe it until Jonathan tasted some of the crystallized sugar right on the surface of the melon… spectacular!).  Onto the next melon variety and… enter the Charentais melon.  I had the luck to create a dish with this melon for our last farm dinner, and to say that I was bowled over by it would be an understatement.  This small melon is a powerhouse of flavor, texture and aroma.  Jonathan described it as “heady” and I’d have to agree… the melon exudes an amazing and powerfully sweet melon scent.  As luck would have it, Jonathan offered one to me.  I love anything that gets my creative juices flowing, so I tried to come up with a few recipes that would highlight this little gem of Melendom.  Following are two recipes that Evelyn Brown, contributor at OurLocaltopia, and I made later that evening.  Simple preparation, mild flavors, and the magnificent Chanterais at the center.  Even if you cant find one of these amazing melons, try the recipes with the best, most fragrant melon you can get your hands on.  As always, make your cooking inspire you and achieve fulfillment by cooking what will nourish you and your family (whoever they are!). And most of all, have fun with it!

The first recipe we tried was Melon with Yogurt and Honey, a simple, quick dish  perfect for a warm summer evening. Check out the directions, recipe and photo gallery for this recipe below!

Melon with Yogurt and Honey

The trouble with dishes with few ingredients is that they need to be of the best quality.  Do the best you can!  We used Charentais melon, goat yogurt (Greek is a great one too), and locally harvested Fullerton Arboretum honey.  You can direct this dish to be on the sweet or savory side; we used tender mint leaves on one side (sweet), and tender blue basil leaves on the other (savory).  Maldon salt is an additional optional touch.

Ingredients:

1 cantaloupe or honeydew melon (3 pounds), seeded and cut into 16 wedges

3 cups goat yogurt

1/2 cup mint or small basil leaves

1/4 cup honey

Maldon salt (optional)

Directions:

Arrange melon wedges on a platter. Place yogurt in a serving bowl, top with mint and/or basil, and drizzle with honey. Serve melon with yogurt.

The next recipe we explored was a Cantaloupe and Chickpea Salad. Read on for recipe, directions and photos!

Cantaloupe and Chickpea Salad

The secret to this simple salad is in a great melon and quality chickpeas.  If you can, use dried chickpeas, soak overnight, and cook the following day until tender.  Note that the oil for the vinaigrette is heated with aromatics (garlic and rosemary) prior to being added to the salad and mixed with the acid (lemon juice).  A great way to transmit flavors throughout a vinaigrette.

Ingredients:

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 6-inch sprig rosemary, leaves stripped and coarsely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

3 to 4 cups coarsely chopped (or balled) melon, such as Charentais

1 1/2 ounces speck (about 5 slices), thinly sliced crosswise into strips (Optional)

Zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

In a small saute pan, combine olive oil, rosemary, and garlic. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.

Remove from heat and toss with chickpeas in a large bowl. Stir in melon, speck (optional), lemon zest and juice, salt, and black pepper.

We really could not get enough of these amazing melons. Stay tuned for a a melon cocktail post later this week…

Until then, good eating!

~ Jonathan Dye

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