Cantaloupe is best when it's fragrant and slightly yielding to the tooth. But it can be tricky to judge ripeness before opening the melon -- and sometimes you'll find you've waited a bit too long. Your cantaloupe isn't moldy or rotten, but it's clearly too soft for fruit salad or other dishes. In this case, the best thing to do is simply puree it and use the result in a popsicle, a smoothie, a refreshing drink or an elegant sorbet.
Pop overripe melon chunks into a blender. You could also add juice, yogurt or milk, honey or other fruits such as blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, bananas and other melons. Now you have a customized fruit smoothie to enjoy as a breakfast or a snack. You can also simply puree the cantaloupe on its own and serve the puree in a tall glass as an ultra-minimalist smoothie.
Chilled fruit soups are highly refreshing on hot summer days. Pureed cantaloupe can act as the star player in the soup or in a supporting role along with a variety of fruit. Try cantaloupe and amaretto, cantaloupe and mint or cantaloupe and ginger. You can use either yogurt or fruit juice as a base and garnish with fresh berries or slivered mint leaves.
Aguas fresca are a Mexican beverage popularized by taquerias. They consist primarily of water, sugar or honey and pureed fruit -- in this case, cantaloupe. A little bit of lime juice would not be amiss, either, nor would fresh herbs such as basil or mint. Serve chilled, with plenty of ice, on its own or as an accompaniment to tacos, burritos or other Mexican foods.
For a more adult beverage, try a melon variation on the classic Bellini. In this case, push the overripe melon through a strainer to strain out the juice, pour into a wine glass, then top with prosecco, champagne or other sparkling wine. If straining sounds like too much work, you can simply use pureed cantaloupe for a slightly thicker drink. You can even make a virgin Bellini with sparkling water.
Sorbet, Granita and Ice Cream
Pureed cantaloupe makes a good base for frozen desserts as well. Whether you choose to turn it into a rough-textured granita, a smooth and dairy-free sorbet or a rich cantaloupe ice cream depends on your tastes and your equipment -- an ice cream maker is handy, though not essential, for the latter two. Once again, feel free to combine fruits -- peach puree would be nice here, as would lime juice -- and add herbs or spices to taste, from mint and vanilla to ginger and cinnamon.
The simplest frozen cantaloupe treat, however, requires only a popsicle mold. Puree your overripe melon, pour the puree into the mold and add a stick. Once they've been frozen solid you'll have all-fruit popsicles. When you're working with an overripe cantaloupe you probably won't want any additional sweetener, but if you're looking for variations on a theme you could add some mint, some lime juice, a touch of yogurt or buttermilk. Or try adding pureed cucumber for a refreshing flavor combination.
- The Kitchn: Watermelon, Cantaloupe and Honeydew -- 20 Refreshing Ideas
- Eating Well: Cantaloupe Smoothie
- Food 52: Chilled Cantaloupe Soup
- New York Times: Watermelon or Cantaloupe Agua Fresca
- Epicurious: Cantaloupe Sorbet
- The Homesick Texan: Canteloupe Ice Cream
- Bon Appetit: Cantaloupe Granita
- Los Angeles Times: Weekend Project -- Cool Off With Homemade Popsicles!
- Photo Credit Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images