Ten Ways to Get Your 'Loupe On

Summer of 1988: I was a new college grad, making six bucks an hour at two jobs and living in a group house in West Philadelphia. It was ridiculously hot all the time in that skunky Philly sort of way. Other than developing a penchant for tequila, I remember my obsession with cantaloupe and vanilla yogurt. I made it for breakfast before heading to my six-dollar-an-hour job on my bicycle called Shirley, and I made it for dinner because most of the time, it was just too hot to cook. I'd buy my 'loupes from Al the Fruit Man, an old codger who sold produce on the U. Penn campus, or I'd pick one up at Sue's, a Korean-owned fruit shop on a corner in Center City.

Cantaloupe with honey and pecans. (Kim O'Donnel)

There is one caveat with loving cantaloupe melons -- and that's the uncertainty of the tasting experience. At least half the time, cantaloupes are more sour than sweet and more cardboardy than velvety, a highly distressing, unappetizing experience that makes for one big gamble when you're a cantaloupe enthusiast licking your chops for melon. But the remaining 50 percent of the time, when a cantaloupe is sweeter than honey, perfumed like a rose and almost creamy to the bite, I forget about all the duds that have dared pass my lips and I'm back in melon heaven.

Right now, I've got a sweet beauty in my midst, and I'm loving life. Her flesh is just as I remember, that gorgeous shade of pink-orange, like something you might see at sunset. And her scent - well, without sounding like too much of a pun, is honeybee-sent - nectar-y and as sweet as a midsummer's night dream.

Cantaloupe with olive oil, mint and cayenne. (Kim O'Donnel)

As I cut through my lucky melon yesterday afternoon, I thought about the many ways I can get my 'loupe on, other than the KOD way with vanilla yogurt a la 1988. Feel free to add to the list as you see fit. And if you don't share my enthusiasm, chime in on the other vined fruits of summer.

Ten Ways to Get Your 'Loupe On

1. Sauteed with bananas in a skillet, butter, a little rum, poured over vanilla fro-yo or ice cream.

2. Drizzled with honey and garnished with pecans or walnuts, for breakfast or dessert.

3. Dressed up with basil and/or mint, a spritz of olive oil, cayenne, lime and salt for a light yet luscious salad or elegant starter.

4. Draped with prosciutto and shards of Parmigiano-Reggiano, to make you feel like you're summering in Sicily.

5. Pureed into a refreshingly cold soup to take the 98 percent humidity edge off.

Cantaloupe with blueberries, yogurt and nutmeg. (Kim O'Donnel)

6. Partnered with grilled shrimp, threaded on a skewer, for a kebab unlike no other. The grilled 'loupe will intrigue and inspire.

7. As part of a seviche, fish and/or shellfish "cooked" in an acidic marinade that would make a very glam dinner party appetizer.

8. Featured in a gorgeous salsa, studded with red onion, cilantro, chilies, cucumber and lime, served with grilled fish or chicken.

9. David Lebovitz, author of "The Perfect Scoop," suggests using 'loupe for a variety of frozen treats, including sorbet and granita, spiked with a sparkling wine. I'm loving the idea of his melon in lime syrup -- 'loupe chunks steeped in a reduced lime-zested simple syrup. Yowza.

10. Tossed with blueberries or blackberries, a wee bit of lime and honey, and if you're feeling frisky, a tablespoon of diced candied ginger.

By Kim ODonnel |  July 8, 2008; 11:50 PM ET Seasonal Produce , Summer
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I like mine with a shake of salt and some cottage cheese.

Posted by: Mmm.... | July 9, 2008 8:14 AM

I just got a new blender and am starting to experiment with smoothies. I bet 'loupe's would be really good in a smoothie!

Posted by: TLC | July 9, 2008 8:27 AM

Kim, how about a primer on other kinds of melons? my fave is the Juan Canary (sweeter than cantaloupe.)

Posted by: SSMD | July 9, 2008 10:11 AM

To use the innards our fave. I actually bought a blender (ours died recently) because the handblender just didn't do this as well (the only 2 recipes a handblender doesn't work for, this and borscht).

From Gourmet Mag Aug 2001

Agua de Melon (Cantaloupe Coolers)
Makes 4 (8 oz) drinks

1 med cantaloupe (2 1/2 to 3 lbs)
1/3 cup sugar, or to taste
3 cups chilled water (preferably bottle spring water)

Cut cataloupe in half and scoop seeds with juice into blender, reserving fruit for another use. Add sugar and 2 cups water and blend on high speed 1 minute (seeds will still be visible). Pour through a fine sieve into a bowl, pressing on solids, and stir in remaining water. Serve chilled over ice.

Can be made 4 hours ahead and kept chilled.

Posted by: JJ | July 9, 2008 10:24 AM

When I was a child in Philly, rather a long time ago, there was a candy store called Helen's that made an ambrosial canteloupe ice cream. I've made it myself a few times since then, and it's pretty darn good (if not quite as good as I remember Helen's).

Posted by: Mel | July 9, 2008 10:33 AM

What would be really useful would be some tips on how to buy only the sweet smooth 'loupes you rave about and avoid the sour cardboard types.

Posted by: mjkVA | July 9, 2008 11:20 AM

It's never a gamble on the taste and texture when you live in Texas and buy Pecos canteloupes. Last weekend my mom bought a heaping box and we've been enjoying them all week. Each bite is consistently sweeter and juicer than the last; like eating natural cotton candy.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 9, 2008 11:29 AM

I just finished the last of my 'loupe from my Washington's Green Grocer delivery, and it was the sweetest I've ever had. Can't seem to identify it, though; it had the skin of a honeydew and but the flesh of a cantaloupe, and the flavor melded the two. Any ideas?

Posted by: Julia | July 9, 2008 12:29 PM

Julia -- I agree, my last cantaloupe from Green Grocers was fantastic! I still have a half left, and was weighing my options on what to do with it -- I'm thinking a soup will be the answer.

Posted by: Veggie in DC | July 9, 2008 1:13 PM

A similar story about the same time... I just graduated from college in 1989 with a degree in theater, and lived in a vegetarian group house with fellow company members. My cheap, summer love was Breyers ice cream (with the vanilla beans specs) and melon (any type would do) sprinkled with granola.

Posted by: CAC in Takoma Park | July 9, 2008 1:26 PM

I remember my Mom would scoop out the middle, and cut in small pieces and put in a baggie for me for snack, for school or work. We also ate the loupe with homemade vanilla ice cream, or Breyers vanilla with the vanilla bean. My parents had a garden for along time. Veggies and fruit were home grown. Summertime meals were generally veggies and fruit, and many salads. It was Awesome!!!! yum

Posted by: East Coast | July 9, 2008 2:28 PM

Hello Kim,

Cantaloupes? I've given up, here on Maui. They come from the mainland, and perhaps 5% or 10% are delicious.

But... IT"S LYCHEE SEASON. Local lychees are amazing by the third or fourth week of the harvest. Before that, they're acid. I cheerfully go bankrupt in lychee season. Now it's the fourth week, and they're great. Even Costco has Big Island lychees, $11 for 2 1/2 pounds. I'm pigging out on a kilo a day, wearing a satisfied smirk! Friends hone in on the Hayden mangoes, which are also in season right now, but it's the lychees that do it for me.

Posted by: David Lewiston | July 9, 2008 3:33 PM

I love lychees. It's been a long time. It's fig season here in Louisiana. Cantaloupe tip: Smell the stem end. If it's sweet, the melon will be sweet. If there's no smell, there will be no taste.

Posted by: Dave | July 9, 2008 6:41 PM

I like the idea of seviche, but I'm always paranoid that the fish will somehow spoil, or rather, I have this idea that you have to find sushi grade fish.

Is this true? Can someone calm me down about the whole thing?

Posted by: Rita | July 9, 2008 7:20 PM

You may have been enjoying an Orange Honeydew. They look just like a honeydew, but the flesh is like a cantaloupe. Delicious!

To determine a good honeydew--smell the end. No smell, pass it by.

Posted by: Maggie | July 9, 2008 9:37 PM

Cantaloupe is great in a salad with greens, onion, avocado, and a balsamic vinagrette. Delicious. It adds sweetness and juice, and goes well with the vinegar tang.

Posted by: eggplant | July 10, 2008 9:11 AM

When we were in Nice one summer we frequented an Italian restaurant that served cantaloupe soaked in limoncello as a palate cleanser before dessert. It was sublime. I can't partake now because I'm preggo, but wanted to share for others.

Kim, your suggestions look amazing! Thanks!

Posted by: Katie | July 10, 2008 10:44 AM

I found several unusual cantaloupe recipes on www.recipezaar.com. I made the Thai chilled cantaloupe soup and it was delicious and different. Also melon marmalade, melon cake and a melon and shrimp salad.
"San Francisco A La Carte" has a recipe for a seeded and peeled whole 'loupe that is frosted with cream cheese, rolled in coconut and filled with mixed fresh fruit.
It's been a long time but I think the hostess served poppy seed dressing with it.
For a simpler chilled soup I blend a 'loupe, milk, fresh mint and a package of powdered lime juice and if necessary a sweetner.

Posted by: Cynthia | July 17, 2008 12:50 PM

To mjk in VA and all:

First, look at the background color behind the "netting"... if it is green, it's a no buy.

Secondly, there should be a wide area (the bottom) that is whitish-yellow. This is where the cantaloupe grew on the ground.

The vine spot should give a little when pushed w/thumb.

Lastly, there should be a wonderful, delicate aroma when the cantaloupe is smelled.

Now, I've got to go to the local produce stand LOL

Old Crone in Texas

Posted by: Leslie | July 17, 2008 1:41 PM

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