Kitchen Wit and Wisdom: Local melons are ready for picking

Summer! We finally can buy some local produce and fruits in some grocery stores, but for a real abundance and choice, visit the farmers’ markets and local family farm outlets, as they are getting more abundant and colourful each week.

The seasons are magical to me, and already this summer we’re smelling peaches, corn, peppers and melons Yes, melons, the underdogs of summer: bulky and thick-skinned, their beauty lies within. Most of the time, melons are simply cut and eaten, unadorned. Watermelon most of all. Melons are 90 per cent water and so offer more relief in the heat than other fruits like peaches or berries.

Today’s recipes are a bit more sophisticated than cut, slice and eat, but still easy and fun. Enjoy some melon this week.

Summer Melon Salad

2 cups each of watermelon, cantaloupe, and galia melon (again, use your faves.) in approx. 1/2-inch dice

1/2 cup of English cucumber, finely diced

2 medium radishes, finely diced

2 tablespoons of fresh mint, minced

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1/2 teaspoon of salt

2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar (or rice, champagne, lemon juice, etc.)

1/2 to 1 teaspoon of Kirsch

Optional: 3/4 tbsp. very, very finely chopped jalapeno

Chop all of your ingredients and place them in a bowl large enough that you’ll be able to toss them easily. You can change to a pretty bowl later! Add the rest of your ingredients, and gently toss to mix well. Gently! Chill until ready to serve. Now this will yield some juice.

If you’re serving it by itself, just use a slotted spoon, or pour some of the juice off before service. If you use this over lettuces, you might want to use the juice to toss the lettuces with as a dressing.

Melon and Watermelon Millefeuille with Cream

Puff pastry – 3-4 sheets, frozen

Watermelon: 1 thick slice

1/2 galia or honeydew melon

1/2 cantaloupe melon

Cream: 200 ml, well-chilled, at least 30% fat

Vanilla sugar, 2-3 Tbsp., depending on taste

Quark (cottage or farmers cheese) 50 g to 100 g, low-fat

Icing sugar

Lay the puff pastry sheets side by side to thaw. Then lay on top of each other and roll out to a thickness of 4 mm.

Cut out 8-12 circles approximately 8 cm in diameter.  Place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment, leaving a little space between them. Brush the pastry with ice-cold water and put into a preheated oven (220 degrees C).  Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden brown, then take out of the oven and cool on a cake rack.

Using a melon baller scoop out balls from each piece of melon and arrange on half of the pastry circles.

Whip the cream with the vanilla sugar until very stiff and fold into the cheese. Put the mixture into a piping bag with a plain nozzle and pipe over and between the melon balls.  Put the remaining pastry circles on top, dust with icing sugar and serve immediately.

Burmese Gin Thoke Melon Salad

½ small seedless watermelon (2 ½ pounds)

½ ripe cantaloupe melon (1 ½ pounds)

¼ ripe honeydew melon (1 pound)

2 (3-inch) pieces young ginger, peeled and minced (1/3 cup); or 2 (3-inch) pieces of regular fresh ginger, peeled and minced (1/3 cup)

¼ cup sesame seeds, toasted

¼ cup lime juice (from 3-4 limes)

¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar

1 ¾ teaspoons kosher salt

1 cup dried green lentils and 4 cups water

2 cups wide-flake unsweetened coconut

1 ¼ cups raw blanched peanuts

4 fresh kaffir lime leaves, chopped

Start by cutting up the melons: Trim off the rind of all 3 melons, remove any seeds, and cut the flesh in to ½- inch dice. Put all of the diced melon in a large mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the ginger, sesame seeds, lime juice, soy sauce, ¼ cup of the olive oil, 2 tablespoons of the sugar and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Mix well and pour over the melon. Toss, and let marinate at room temperature while you prepare the rest of the salad.

Put lentils and 4 cups cold water in small saucepan set over high heat, and bring to boil, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes. Add 1 tsp. of the salt and cook 5 minutes, or until lentils are tender but not mushy. Drain, rinse with cold water to chill, then stir into melon mixture.

Combine the coconut, peanuts, kaffir lime, remaining 1 teaspoon sugar, remaining ¼ cup olive oil, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt in a large sauté pan. Toast the peanut mixture over medium-low heat, stirring it constantly, until the coconut and peanuts have toasted, somewhat unevenly, to a golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes.

Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Just before serving, add the peanut mixture to the melon mixture and stir gently to combine. Serve in a large bowl, preferably at room temperature.

Summer Melon Jelly Dessert

1 x 85g package strawberry and raspberry quick-set jelly crystals

1-1/2 cups boiling water

1/2 cup dessert wine

1 cup seedless watermelon, rind removed, coarsely chopped

1 cup canteloupe, deseeded, peeled, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup fresh mint leaves

4 scoops berry sorbet, to serve

Place the jelly crystals in a heatproof jug. Pour over the water and stir until the jelly dissolves. Stir in the wine.

Pour the jelly mixture into a 27 x 9 cm (base measurement) loaf pan. Place in the fridge for 1 hour or until set.

Combine the watermelon and canteloupe in a large bowl.  Turn the jelly out onto a chopping board. Cut into pieces. Divide the melon mixture and jelly among serving bowls. Top with the mint and berry sorbet. Serve immediately.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every other Wednesday and one Sunday per month.