For someone who expends a lot of energy on her meals, I’m a tad lazy when it comes to their attendant beverages. I mean, I like a good glass of wine—or beer, or Lillet, or port, or gin—as much as the next girl, but for me, it’s kind of an afterthought. I need something to moisten the taste buds, of course, but it’s secondary to the meal itself. In some circles, this is tantamount to blasphemy, I know, but eh, well, it’s just the way I am.
I could, I guess, blame it on my laughable inability to hold my liquor. (Legend has it that I once had a couple of beers and, with a slow roll of the head, innocently asked, “How many sheets to the wind is it, again?”) But that’s not entirely it. After all, the second-class status of beverages in my book is not limited to those alcoholic. Heck, I can’t even remember the last time I had a cup of tea or coffee—an admission that may cause me to lose, sob!, all social standing in Seattle—and come to think of it, I seem to only drink juice on special mornings involving menus and waitresses and tables sticky with syrup. Most of the time, I just drink water. I am very well hydrated, and boring. But give me a beer, and I swear, I can make up for the boring part before the bottle is even empty. You won’t believe how entertaining I am.
Now, all this said, you can well imagine my surprise when, yesterday evening, as the clock turned to dinner, my eye fell upon a ripe French Orange melon in our refrigerator, and my first instinct was oddly not to slice it and eat it, but rather to sip it, of all things. This melon would have been fine, mind you, on the end of a fork or cradled in a spoon, but something took hold of me, and by god, it wanted a beverage.
So, working from a rough soup recipe that came with our CSA box, we whizzed together cubes of juicy melon with wine, lime juice, a pinch of salt, and just enough sugar to make the fruit sit up and sing. For this type of melon, it didn’t take much: a hybrid cross between the smooth-skinned French Charentais melon and the more nubbly, netted-skinned American cantaloupe, the dainty French Orange has sweet, dense, silky flesh and a rich, pregnant aroma that fills the kitchen. Its flavor is not unlike a cantaloupe—but the best cantaloupe to ever cross your lips. And made sippable with lime and sauvignon blanc, cross the lips it does, easily.
A glass of this would make a perfect partner for a platter of prosciutto or Serrano ham, or slices of baguette with butter, radish slivers, and salt. We quaffed ours with a salad of sliced lemon cucumbers, which we then chased with warm ratatouille, poached eggs, and baguette. With the possible exception of the melon itself, straight up, it’s hard to imagine anything better suited to a late-August evening. And for a beverage, you know, that means a lot.
Melon Made Sippable
Adapted from Willie Green’s Organic Farm and Renee Erickson of Boat Street Café
This cool, refreshing sip comes together in five minutes flat, and served icy cold, it’s my new favorite way to start a late-summer dinner. Be sure to start with a cold melon and cold wine: you’ll want to serve this chilled, so using cold ingredients is a good head start.
1 ripe French Orange melon (~2 pounds), or a really good cantaloupe
½ Tbs granulated sugar, or more, depending on melon’s sweetness
Juice of ½ lime, or to taste
½ cup light, crisp white wine, such as sauvignon blanc
A pinch of salt
A few sprigs of fresh mint, for garnish
Quarter the melon, and scoop out the seeds. Working with one quarter at a time, set the wedge on its side to steady it, and then carefully trim the skin away from the flesh with a sharp knife. Discard the skin, and cut the flesh into rough chunks.
In a blender, purée the melon with the sugar, lime juice, wine, and salt. Taste, and adjust as needed.
Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled: if you’ve started with a cold melon and cold wine, you won’t have to wait long. Stir well before serving—the liquids tend to separate slightly from the suspended solids—and finish with a garnish of mint, if you like.
Yield: 2 (or 3 modest) servings