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Burst of big tastes with melons

  • Los Angeles Times
  • Published Wednesday, August 8, 2012, at 7:31 a.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, August 8, 2012, at 7:33 a.m.

The sniff, feel and thump of choosing ripe melons

It’s one of summer’s eternal questions: How do you choose a good melon? The surest solution is to find a great melon man. Here are some tips from Neil Ims at the Weiser Family Farms stand at the Long Beach, Calif., farmers market:

•  For melons with rough, netted rinds (such as muskmelons and cantaloupes), the best indicator is a powerful perfume; you’ll be able to smell them from a distance. The netting should be raised and the rind underneath should be tan to golden, not green. These melons “slip” from their stems when ripe, so the bellybutton will be clean. Another tip from Ims: On really sweet ones, you’ll see some cracking around the bellybutton.

•  Smooth-skinned melons (such as honeydews) are harder to choose. There is little or no perfume (their Latin family name is Inodorous). The best clue is a rich, creamy color with a hint of gold, as opposed to gray; also, the surface of the rind will feel slightly waxy as opposed to smooth and polished. If you find a melon that has freckles, buy it: Those are sugar spots.

•  Watermelons will also have a waxy skin. Look also for a vivid green color and check the pale spot where it rested on the ground: It should be pronounced and golden. And yes, give a watermelon a thump. It should sound like a hollow-core door.


Total time: 20 minutes

Servings: 4 to 6

2 pounds watermelon cubes

1 pound feta, cut in cubes

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds

3 tablespoons lime juice


1 1/2 tablespoons oil

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

Combine watermelon, feta and jalapeno in serving bowl.

Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan over medium heat until they become fragrant and begin to pop, about 2 minutes. If using a mortar and pestle, grind the cumin seeds to dust, add lime juice, salt to taste and oil and whisk to a smooth emulsion. If using a blender, combine the cumin seeds, lime juice, salt and oil and blend until smooth.

Just before serving, add half of the dressing to the watermelon mixture. Toss gently to keep everything whole and taste the salad. If desired, add more dressing. Add the chopped mint and toss gently.

Each of 6 servings: 281 calories; 12 grams protein; 16 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 20 grams fat; 12 grams saturated fat; 67 mg cholesterol; 13 grams sugar; 847 mg sodium.

THE WICHITA EAGLE — Aug. 8, 2012


If you can’t find a whole smoked chicken, use a rotisserie chicken instead.

Total time: 20 minutes

Servings: 4

1 tablespoon minced shallots

2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar

1/2 pound shredded smoked chicken

3/4 pound diced cantaloupe

1 tablespoon oil

Pinch of salt

2 ounces (4 generous cups) torn arugula

Freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, combine the shallots and the vinegar, and set aside to steep for at least 5 minutes while you’re preparing the rest of the ingredients.

Combine the chicken and the cantaloupe in a serving bowl, and set aside until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, whisk the oil into the vinegar mixture to make a smooth emulsion. Season with a pinch of salt.

Add the arugula to the chicken and cantaloupe. Pour dressing over the mixture and stir gently to ensure that everything is evenly coated. Finish with a good grinding of freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Each serving: 161 calories; 15 grams protein; 9 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 7 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 43 mg cholesterol; 7 grams sugar; 96 mg sodium.

THE WICHITA EAGLE — Aug. 8, 2012

A good melon is way too wonderful to be treated only as a sweet.

There are plenty of traditional examples of this. The most obvious is melon and prosciutto, and a very good one it is: the satin saltiness of the ham playing against the buttery sweetness of the melon. That’s only the beginning of possibilities.

Watermelon is so explosively juicy and sweet that you can add all kinds of big tastes — not just salty feta but also jalapenos, toasted cumin, lime and fresh mint — without overwhelming it. In this watermelon salad, the whole is even greater than the sum of its parts, no matter how large they might be.

That’s not to say that the only way to create a melon salad is by making sure every ingredient is screaming at the top of its lungs. Another favorite is the relatively sedate pairing of cantaloupe, smoked chicken and arugula.

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