Ah yes. So sweet and firm. Exotic and, yet, uncomplicated. Magnifico! A Tuscan, just ripe for the taking, and you don’t need to get a passport or speak Italian to enjoy their company. Yes, they are here, right in your own backyard, going for $2.99 each — not by the pound — at your local Safeway. What was I thinking, giving my best years to the domestic cantaloupe when it’s hot Mediterranean cousin was achingly available, just begging for my attention, all along? I guess I just needed a little time to think. It really was a decision I had to make on my own. When did I experience that moment of clarity — or was it craziness — when I said to myself “Come on Simone! Seize the day. What happens in Safeway stays in Safeway!” Was it a mid-life crisis that drove me to the Tuscan? No. It was all about the recipes. The heart wants what the heart wants (Who said that? Woody Allen? Yuck.) and, in the end, the Tuscan shined and dominated above all mortal melons. My olive oil never had it so good.
Choosing your Tuscan
The Tuscan is a cantaloupe grown from Italian hybrid seeds right here in California at Dulcinea Farms. Dark green grooves in the melon indicate a sweet, firm-fleshed fruit while a light green to golden color yields a softer, richer cantaloupe flavor. Either way, it is packed full of Vitamins A and E, low in seeds, and the candy-like taste threw me for a cantaloupe.
Tuscan Greek Salad
2 Tbls. white wine vinegar
1 Tbls. honey
1 tsp. fresh dill, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. lemon zest, grated
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1/4 olive oil
6 cups spinach leaves, pre-washed.
2 cups Tuscan melon, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped.
1/4 cup pecans, halves, toasted
1/4 cup feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
Preparation: For the dressing, whisk together vinegar, honey, dill, garlic, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Once blended, continue whisking while drizzling in olive oil. Set aside. Arrange spinach leaves on platter. Toss melon and cucumber in dressing, spoon over spinach, leaving dressing in bottom of the bowl. Sprinkle with pecans and feta and drizzle with remaining dressing.
Prosciutto Wrapped Melon
The slits in the melon really help to keep this appetizer or salad together.
1 Tuscan melon
1/4 pound thinly sliced prosciutto
Preparation: Cut melon in half, directly down the middle, with the ends on either side of knife. Remove seeds, cut halves length-wise and remove rind. Cut crosswise slits, 1 1/2 half inches a part, in each melon slice. Cut prosciutto into 1-inch strips. Place strips of prosciutto over the melon wedges, pushing the prosciutto into the slits to secure it onto melon. Drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.