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The Joy Kitchen's Roasted Cantaloupe

September  4, 2013

Every week -- often with your help -- Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: How to save bad cantaloupe (and other fruit disappointments).

Roasted Cantaloupe from Food52

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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.

The Joy Kitchen's Roasted Cantaloupe from Food52

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. 

More: But what about bad berries, you ask? Here are 10 ideas.

Roasted Cantaloupe from Food52

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.

But with a simple trick, which I stumbled across on The Joy Kitchen -- run by John Becker and Megan Scott, the new generation of the Joy of Cooking family -- we can channel that fleeting goodness. 

John Becker and Megan Scott

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.)

Roasted Cantaloupe from Food52

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.

Roasted Cantaloupe from Food52

So next time you find yourself resenting a cantaloupe -- cook it. You can use it in popsicles or soup, or put it on top of your yogurt, your granola, your buttery cakey desserts

Whatever you do with it, you can take pride in having outfoxed nature, and made bad cantaloupe good again.

Roasted Cantaloupe from Food52

The Joy Kitchen's Roasted Cantaloupe

Adapted slightly from The Joy Kitchen

1 cantaloupe
About 2 tablespoons sugar or vanilla sugar (optional)

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

The Joy Kitchen's Roasted Cantaloupe from Food52

Photos by James Ransom

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Mandy @ Lady and pups
    Mandy @ Lady and pups
  • pamela joy
    pamela joy
  • saltandserenity
  • jonakocht
  • calendargirl
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Mandy @. November 4, 2013
How about instant persimmon sorbet! http://food52.com/recipes/24808-instant-persimmon-sorbet
pamela J. September 20, 2013
I seem to have very bad melon karma, but I've found I can salvage even the least-sweet, most-insipid specimens by slicing them and putting them in the dehydrator overnight. Watermelon—my least favorite melon—has become my favorite dried fruit. It's transformed beyond recognition; to some, it tastes like bubble gum.
saltandserenity September 7, 2013
I am intrigued. I can't tell you how many tasteless cantaloupes have ended up in the compost heap at my house.
jonakocht September 4, 2013
Another great way to spruce up a mediocre melon is to sprinkle with sea salt and freshly squeezed lime juice. It really enhances what flavour there is and is really refreshing.
calendargirl September 4, 2013
Can't wait to try roasting cantaloupe! But I have never been disappointed by a trick my mother taught me for picking a good cantaloupe: creamy net on creamy skin (no knocking, no sniffing) has always yielded a good one.
AntoniaJames September 4, 2013
calendargirl, what a great tip! Thank you for posting it. I'll keep it in mind. (I am have been disappointed more than once by the flavor of a cantaloupe that smelled great but somehow did not deliver in flavor." I tend to select a cantaloupe (or any melon) if it has a place on it that looks like the melon has been on the ground for a while. That generally means the farmer has allowed it to ripen on the vine, resulting in a better tasting melon.
calendargirl September 4, 2013
And I will try yours, AJ, of looking for a place on the melon where it has been resting on the ground for a while. Thanks. BTW, my mother's tip is of course only good for a cantaloupe, and for a standard variety one at that, but it has always been reliable.
Nawal September 4, 2013
It is really worth trying. The aroma and the taste are exotic.
MissNewEngland September 4, 2013
I'm going to try that incredible jam with the walnuts and cardamom...but using the most delicious cantaloupe i can find ( I just sliced one open that was picked this morning--- I think actually it's a muskmelon, and it's a really juicy aromatic delicious tasting one!). I learned in e Republic of Georgia to make a jam-like compote of cherries, walnuts and citrus rind that reminds me of this jam....
Debra G. September 4, 2013
Could you post the recipe for the cantaloupe cherry jam? I've got 4 cantaloupe and more coming on. I'm going to try the roasting this weekend - I'll try to get my daughter to eat canteloupe. She doesn't normally like the taste.
Mike September 4, 2013
If your daughter doesn't like to eat cantaloupe, it might not be the melon, it might be milk. Cantaloupe used to make me sick to my stomach because as a kid, I drank milk when I ate it. (I drank milk all the time.) When I separated the mellon from the milk, I started liking it.
MissNewEngland September 4, 2013
Debra -- it's not a cantaloupe-cherry jam, it's just cherries stuffed with walnuts... Sometimes we put a little cognac in it... If you'd like it I can post it, though...
Nawal September 4, 2013
The sugar-honey percentage you give will work, even 90 to 10 will be good too, I think. Honey is useful in such sugary foods as they prevent sugar from crystallizing. Lemon juice will do the same thing. About cardamom, I use whole ones, I add them right from the beginning (I use only 4 or 5 ones), and do not discard them. When I eat the jam I make sure to fish out a cardamom and chew on it for a minute or so, and then discard the remaining fibrous stuff. Chewing on whole cardamom is a wonderful breath freshener, especially after eating garlicky or oniony foods.
Nawal September 4, 2013
I flavor my cantaloupe jam with cardamom, and to one cantaloupe pulp-slices I add about a quarter cup walnut halves. I end up enjoying the jammed cardamom and walnut as much as I do the fruit itself. I usually use regular sugar, as I think honey would kind of overpower the cantaloupe flavor.
AntoniaJames September 4, 2013
Thanks for the tip re the honey! I have a new recipe that I'm trying, from an excellent book published last year (*The Preservation Kitchen,* by Paul Virant). I also tend to find that the honey flavor can dominate, so with this in mind, I'll probably substitute sugar for 80% of the honey. Do you put the cardamom seeds or pods in the jam while it's cooking and then remove them before canning? I find cardamom to be a dominating flavor when left in fruit preserves that are canned. It seems to become much more powerful over time. Thanks again!
gentile September 4, 2013
I do this with almost all fruit. It really has helped me buy more fruit because I am not worried about waste from being stuck with fruit that is not as luscious as it should be. I know I can always 'rescue' it for use in yogurt or over cake.
AntoniaJames September 4, 2013
Disappointing cantaloupe also makes an amazing pickle. ;o) P.S. Nawal, brilliant minds think alike. I have on my counter two cantaloupe - Tuscan and standard -- waiting to be turned into cantaloupe + vanilla jam, which I'll be starting during my lunch break today. (The diced cantaloupe will macerate in honey overnight.)
Nawal September 4, 2013
It looks very appetizing! My way of dealing with so-so cantaloupe is to make it into jam. Very delicious and unique.