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.
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.
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.
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.
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