Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cantaloupe Sorbet

Melons—Sweet juiciness in frosty pulp. The high water content of melons makes them the most refreshing of hot-weather fruits, but for the same reason they are not suitable for cooking into sauces or pies. Chill them in the refrigerator, in the creek, or in the shade. Cut out a thick crescent and bite in. Don’t you wish your mouth was bigger?

—Edward Espe Brown, Tassajara Cooking (Boulder: Shambhala, 1973), 115.

Yesterday, my friends, I had occasion to drive out Highway 50 to Sedalia, and as I returned I stopped for provisions at the Dutch Bakery, a Mennonite-owned market in Tipton. My prime objective was to visit the bulk-grains aisle and replenish my stock of oat bran for my famous muffins.

Then I got sidetracked by the carts and carts of ripe local watermelons and cantaloupes. I leaned over and poked my nose down into the cantaloupes—inhaled—ahh, there we go! I had to buy one!

It was large, and there’s only two of us, so I decided to cut up half to eat “plain,” and then to “do something else” with the other half. . . . But what to do?

When I’m looking for interesting things to do with vegetables and fruits, I tend to consult two books: Tassajara Cooking, by Edward Espe Brown, and the much more recent Farmer’s John’s Cookbook, which I also love. (Remember the chilled cucumber-mint soup? What an awesome recipe!)

Both books offer fresh ideas for flavor combinations. Brown, in Tassajara Cooking, suggests the interesting combination of fresh cantaloupe drizzled with lemon juice and topped with a mound of cashew butter (“Cantaloupe Fancies,” p. 115).

I would have never thought of that, but although cashews aren’t my thing, I’ll bet this combination would send some people over the moon.

Farmer John offers recipes for a cantaloupe-and-tomato salad, for instance, and for “Cantaloupe and Cardamom,” which is fresh-cut cantaloupe jazzed up by ground cardamom, some fresh lime juice, a bit of black pepper, and chopped fresh cilantro (p. 214).

Again, I wouldn’t have come up with that combination on my own—but it is indeed very interesting; adding those flavors makes you “interpret” cantaloupe in a whole new way.

I landed on this cantaloupe sorbet recipe from Farmer John’s Cookbook. (I’ve been using the ice cream maker a lot recently!)

Below is essentially the same exact recipe as provided in—note the official, complete bibliographic citation—Farmer John Peterson and Angelic Organics, with Lesley Littlefield Freeman, Farmer John’s Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables (Salt Lake City: Gibbs Smith, 2006), 214. I have made slight amendments, but quantities and ingredients are the same.

This sorbet is incredibly refreshing, and it lacks the strong, puckery-sweet quality that other sorbets usually have. The cantaloupe (not sugar) is unmistakably the star ingredient, and the ginger adds an addictive je ne sais quoi.

Farmer John’s Cookbook says this recipe serves 4—and it’s light enough you could eat a lot of it at a sitting—but I think it serves a lot more than four people, considering sorbet is usually served in little dabs.

Ginger Melon Sorbet

—approx. 4 cups cantaloupe, cut into cubes (about half of a large cantaloupe)
—1/2 cup sugar
—1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
—2 tbsp. grated ginger (see neat trick below!)
—garnish: mint leaves

Add all ingredients into food processor or blender and purée until smooth. Depending on capacity of food processor, you might have to work in batches.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Now, for your bonus cooking tip, check this out!

Convenient Grated Ginger

When I’m in a rush (which is most of the time), I have tended to avoid recipes calling for fresh-grated ginger because of the preparation ginger requires. And no matter what grater-gadget I used, I always scuffed my knuckles at the end, or else it seemed that I always had a nubbin of ginger in the fridge that I never used up.

But here’s a neat trick to make fresh ginger be more convenient. I learned this from the St. Louis mother-and-daughter “Punjabi Home Cooking” team of Aman and Gurcharan Aulakh. They use ginger a lot!

Peel a large bunch of ginger (I recommend slicing it thinly against the fibers), then pulse in a food processor to grind it up. Transfer it to a zip bag, squeeze the air out, and seal. Freeze. Then, when you need “fresh grated ginger,” it’s always on hand; just break off what you need. It’s not technically “fresh,” but it’s incredibly close, and the convenience rocks!

(You can also process and freeze fresh garlic, too; this comes in handy when you’re cooking Indian food and must start off nearly every dish with some garlic in the skillet!)

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