Today: How to save bad cantaloupe (and other fruit disappointments).
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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.
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.
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.
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]
The Genius Desserts cookbook is here! With more than 100 of the most beloved and talked-about desserts of our time (and the hidden gems soon to join their ranks) this book will make you a local legend, and a smarter baker to boot.
I'm an ex-economist, ex-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007. 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."