(Don’t forget, it’s National Farmers Market Week and the Foodie Tots <3 Farmers Markets photo contest is now open!)
For a good portion of my life, I hated cantaloupe. I would eat honeydew and watermelon without a second thought, but carefully, obsessively, pick out any orange-fleshed melon pieces from fruit salads. When the Foodie Tot was born, the husband and I agreed to introduce him to foods we hated without prejudice and let him form his own opinions. (That meant bananas and canteloupe for me, and many green vegetables for the husband.) I’ve learned to cope with bananas ripening on the counter, despite my continued abhorrence of the sight and smell of brown spots, but was surprised to discover last summer that sweet, locally-grown cantaloupe is actually enjoyable. People often assume that melon is less nutritious because of its high water contents, but in fact cantaloupe is loaded with beta-carotene and vitamins A and C, potassium, folate and fiber, making it a nutrition power house. It’s peak melon season now locally, and most produce stands at local farmers markets offer an array of melons in shades of orange, yellow, green and red. Pick one that is still firm to the touch but smell the stem end to test for ripeness — the sweeter the better.
Of course my Italian heritage demands that I serve melon draped in prosciutto, and the Southern Maryland/Virginia melons found at our local farmers markets are perfectly suited for the task. Inspired by that classic sweet-salty pairing, I decided to try my hand at a cantaloupe soup. We ventured out in the rain to the West End Alexandria market Sunday — because Foodie Tots are not fair weather market fans — and the dark, gloomy day put me in the mood for soup. This simple soup could be served warm or chilled. It’s topped with crispy prosciutto-style ham and fried basil leaves. I can’t call this toddler-approved as the foodie tot spit it out in a fussy refusing to eat rebellion, but if your kid is in a less finicky mood I suspect they might at least be slightly intrigued by this sweet, orange soup.
Recipe: Cantaloupe Soup with Ham and Basil
- 1 good sized cantaloupe (4 cups, cubed)
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
- 1 medium sweet onion
- 1 cup chicken stock
- salt and pepper
- 2-3 slices prosciutto-style ham
- several small basil leaves
Instructions: Heat oil over medium heat in stock pot. Cook onions until soft and translucent (but not browned). Add melon and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes, until melon falls apart when prodded with a spoon. Season with just a tiny pinch of salt and pepper. Remove from heat and cool before blending in blender in small batches, or in pot with a stick blender. Serve warm or chill for several hours to serve cold.
Before serving, thinly slice and chop ham into small pieces. Fry over medium high heat until browned and crispy. Remove from heat and pat with paper towel to remove excess oil. Cook basil leaves in the ham’s drippings until translucent and crisp (do not stir), remove carefully. Sprinkle ham bits and basil leaves in center of soup before serving. Makes 4 servings. Enjoy!
This, along with a Cibola Farms buffalo steak and sauteed Swiss chard from our CSA, is our featured One Local Summer meal of the week. Our squash blossom succotash crepes earlier in the week were also all-local. We’re now celebrating National Farmers Market Week with a market menu every night — stay tuned for the highlights. And be sure to grab your camera when you head to the market this week to enter the Foodie Tots <3 Farmers Market photo contest! Just upload a picture to the Flickr pool by Sunday, August 9.