Friday, July 27, 2007

Melon with Port & Lavender

Musk melons have arrived, courtesy of the Blew family at Oak Grove Plantation. The Cantaloupes at their stand this week are floral, fragrant, and unbelievably yielding when split open – a far cry from the cardboard replicas you’ll find out of season in the local supermarket. Musk melons are a family of melons, named for their heady fragrance, that includes the Honey Dew, the Casaba, and the Cantaloupe. They came to the Mediterranean from Persia a very long time ago – the Ancient Greeks wrote about them in the 3rd Century BCE. Provence seems to have fallen in love with the fruits in the Middle Ages.

Cavaillon, a village in Provence’s Luberon, has long been famous for its melons and throws a great fête du melon each July to celebrate the harvest. There the Cavaillon melon, similar to the Cantaloupe but ridged in green stripes, is found in great heaps at the region’s markets all summer. And it’s eaten cooked and raw, savory and sweet. There are local recipes for deep-frying the Cavaillon in batter, for sautéing it with vinegar and onions, and for slicing it thinly over shellfish.

But the lovely tradition of marinating the juicy orange flesh in Port before serving it forth on a hot summer’s night is my favorite of all. I’ve added a tiny bit of my home-dried River Garden lavender, but don't hesitate to stay purist with this. There is hardly an easier or more restorative dessert, and the port makes the surprisingly complex fragrance and flavors of the melon shine.

Avoid squeezing musk melons, as this can lead to bruising. They should be fragrant and the indentation at the stem end should be smooth – a jagged edge means the melon was picked before it was ripe. And your melon should be heavy for its size – a sure sign of juiciness within. The fridge dulls the flavors of your melon, but once it’s been opened, a melon really must be refrigerated.

Serves 2 – 4

1 ripe Cantaloupe
Ruby Port (no need for anything posh here)
Small pinch of fresh or dried lavender (optional)

Halve your melon and gently scoop out the seeds. With a sharp pairing knife, lightly score the hollow of the cavities in a crosshatch pattern. This will allow the Port to penetrate the flesh. Fill the melon halves about 3/4 of the way with Port and let sit for 15 – 30 minutes. Just before serving, crumble the dried lavender over the exposed flesh.


Sylvia said...

What a gorgeous combination !! I think The Port wine and the lavender gave to the melon a sophisticate and flavor touch.

Patricia Scarpin said...

I have never seen anything like this dessert, Amanda!
I love melons, so I'd love to try this sometime.

Sarah said...

This sounds divine--can't wait to try it! Which markets in town do you go to? I love the greenmarkets here and I'm always trying to find more good ones.

Figs Olives Wine said...

Hi Sylvia - Thanks so much! I'm so glad you like the recipe - it's one of my favorites and so simple.

Hi Patricia - It's so simple, but the Port and lavender really do turn up the fragrance of the melon. I really love melon too.

Hi Sarah - Well I have long been a fan of the little market on 77th & Columbus by Lincoln Center on Sundays and the little weekend one on Hudson. Lovely baked goods there. I also really enjoy the Cadman Plaza market in Bklyn Heights too - great for seedlings for starting a herb garden as well as for the normal produce. Kernan Farm's there on Thursdays, and they have gorgeous fruit and veg. Which ones do you like? Hope you enjoy the melon!

Pille said...

Such a great and simple idea!!

Anonymous said...

This is Provence in a nutshell.

Mélanie said...

I love this recipe . I eat this as an entree .
Great to have founf your blog and to see that you share mediterranean culture with the bloggers .

Figs Olives Wine said...

Hello Pille and thanks! The good thing is that it still feels and tastes special, so it's great for when people come over.

Hi anonymous - There's nothing like the flavors of a Provencal summer - they're so evocative, aren't they?

Hi Mélanie, and welcome! You must get the most beautiful melons where you are! I was actually saying the other night that I could have had it all to myself as dinner. Thanks so much!

Joanne Rendell said...

now this we can definitely have for a summer's day picnic! monday?

winedeb said...

Oh my, I have never seen anything like this! It is almost like a sofisticated sangria! This one is a must on my list!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Hi Jo - I like where your head's at...Manda's in charge of dessert!

Hi Winedeb - I think you'll really like the Port with the ripe cantaloupe. It's very traditional, and if you happen upon some lavender, it brings out something new in both of them. Hope you enjoy!

jennifer said...

Melons are just coming into the farmers markets here in Minnesota, and I plan to gorge myself on them for as long as I can stand it.

Thank you for an elegant way to end a meal on a hot summer night.

tribecachef said...

Great recipe. I love Oak Grove Plantation. Do you ever use their pork?

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

ohhhh, this sounds so good! I adore cantaloupe and this is good a way as any to have some! Beautiful!

Loulou said...

don't you just love using lavender in the kitchen? It's flavor is sublime!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Hi Jennifer - Isn't it wonderful when something you adore comes into season? Especially something as uplifting as melon, I think!

Hi Tribecachef - Actually yes! I have a pork tenderloin of there's in the fridge right now, and I am a huge fan of their sausages too. They seem to have pretty great guidelines they've set themselves there: no hormones or antibiotics, no pesticides on the land, no preservatives in the sausage. And thanks! I'm glad you like the recipe!

Hi Jenn - Thanks! There's nothing like a perfectly ripe cantaloupe, is there? This one sort of split apart as soon as I touched it with the knife. And the fragrance!

Hi Loulou - It really is perhaps the most evocative of all the herbs, isn't it? I do love using lavender in cooking. For our dinner tonight I'm doing a mustard-thyme rub on the pork tenderloin I mentioned to tribecachef above, and, in the warmer months I like to throw some lavender into the mix. It's too lovely not to use when I've got it around. And where you are, you must have decadent heaps of the stuff this time of year! Heaven.

Anonymous said...

I've never heard of eating melons like this, what a fascinating recipe!

Ari (Baking and Books)

David Hall said...


Nice simple recipe, I'll keep this one up my sleeve. I often use a little crushed mint with a sweet marsala too. Nice Blog, will be keeping in touch.


Figs Olives Wine said...

Hi Ari- Thanks so much. I hope you enjoy the melon!

Hi David - Love the marsala and mint idea - I'll be trying that one the next time we've got a melon! Thanks for stopping in. I think I've seen your name on Charlotte's site, and I look forward to checking out your blog too!

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