Watermelons snag your eye. It's got green racing stripes and a bright red pulp that has made it a picnic staple. But in August, cantaloupe is the fruit that you should fall under the spell of your melon baller.
Ripe melons are somewhere between beige and gray in color. If you run
your finger along the side, the netting pattern on the outside should
feel raised. Avoid melons with a strong odor or soft spots. Those are
too ripe or rotten. You'll know you've got it right if you cut into the
melon and find pale orange flesh that is consistent in color.
You want to slice or ball a melon as close to when you serve it as possible. If you have to keep it in the fridge. Wrap it tightly or seal it in Tupperware as cantaloupe easily picks up the odors of the other food in your fridge. You think you want bacon cantaloupe, but you really don't.
Cantaloupe is good in a number of cold dishes. Cantaloupe's pale orange color makes for beautiful sorbet. It's easy to puree in a blender and is a tasty way to get a serving of fruit. And like watermelon, cantaloupe can be a nice salad ingredient. This recipe calls for melon, celery and a mint vinaigrette.
Cantaloupe's sweetness works in cocktails as well. You can make aguas frescas -- a drinkable version of fruit-flavored simple syrup served in Mexican restaurants. Those who want a non-alcoholic drink can stop there, everybody else can splash in some vodka for a melontini. For those who want to dabble in molecular drinkology, you can attempt to make pearls of cantaloupe caviar from canteloupe puree.
[Image via Flickr: jonny goldstein]