Today: How to save bad cantaloupe (and other fruit disappointments).
Sometimes, despite your good training and instincts and most desperate intentions, you're going to get a disappointing cantaloupe (or nectarine, or flat of strawberries). Fruit has its ways of beguiling us -- of looking like a Platonic ideal, and tasting like vaguely tart paper.
With a cantaloupe, you can go to the greenmarket, and try the smell test, and the knock test, and look for a bleached splotch from a lengthy ripening on the ground. But sometimes, it will trick you. You'll bust it open and you'll get angry.
Not to mention the ways it confronts us as fruit salad filler year-round -- many don't know how good it can be, because it almost never is. It's pale, shelf-stable, inoffensive but completely unremarkable. In this hostile environment, tasting a truly ripe, sweet, local cantaloupe -- if and when it happens -- is a life-changing experience.
Scott turned to roasting because she doesn't like cantaloupe, and it made a convert of her. "Sometimes the very thing you dislike will provoke creativity," she wrote.
So she cubed it, tossed it with a little vanilla sugar, and stuck it in a hot oven. (This is a reasonable thing to do with any fruit you're not on good terms with -- see plums, strawberries, apples, mango.)
The cubes collapse slightly, having lost some of their water weight. What's left is sweeter, more complex and jewel-like, with lightly singed edges.
Whatever you do with it, you can take pride in having outfoxed nature, and made bad cantaloupe good again.
The Joy Kitchen's Roasted Cantaloupe
Adapted slightly from The Joy Kitchen
About 2 tablespoons sugar or vanilla sugar (optional)
Photos by James Ransom