This last Tuesday we went to Canele for Amy Pressman & Nancy Silverton’s guest cheffing Burger Night. It was a prix fixe menu which began with cubed Weiser Farm Melons topped with Cowgirl Creamery Cottage Cheese, mint and Chili Oil. It was fantastic because the melons were perfectly sweet and juicy, and paired with cottage cheese and any soft herb such as mint, cilantro or tarragon, this dish is a classic that no one can argue with and easy enough to whip up at home as you embrace your inner celebrity chef.”
The following day, we made the trek to the Santa Monica Market and found some gorgeous melons from Menax Ranch where they sell about six varieties. Truly worth the trip because these hybrids cannot tolerate commercial transport and have a very short shelf life so you will never see them in your grocery store. They are intoxicatingly sweet and like their siblings pair well with anything pork and also provide a refreshing contrast to most things hot and spicy.
It goes without saying that prosciutto and melon are a safe appetizer stand-by, but if you’re feeling fancy you can take one of the aforementioned soft herbs and smash up a handful with a mortar and pestle, then add some cream, a little honey and some lime and salt to make a dressing. Voila, you have turned your appetizer into a lovely salad when you drizzle this dressing over your cut up melon and prosciutto or lardon even. Garnish with some chopped and seeded Serrano chilis or chili oil a la Nancy Silverton and fresh ground pepper. Yum.
The most challenging aspect of using melons in your dishes is really picking out a winner. Melons do not ripen or sweeten further once they have been harvested which is why you find such sad and bland specimens at your grocer . It is best to go to your farmer’s market where you know that the produce has endured little transport. Melons should feel heavy and smell at their base almost floral and very aromatic with just a bit of softness.
If like me yesterday at the Menax Farm table you should have the good fortune to encounter some succulent melons, you need only keep it simple. Puree them and use them as a base for a margarita with lime and simple syrup, or use that same puree, add some sugar and lime to taste and place this mixture into a casserole to freeze for a granita. Like all granitas, scrape the mixture with a fork every half hour or so until it is no longer slushy but has the texture of an Ice-y cone. Perfect summer treat. Yes, of course, you can add vodka.
Tara Maxey is the sweet side of Heirloom LA, with Matthew Poley handling the savory side.