Cantaloupe Cocktail Hour

In Pirate Caroline’s anchorage, it’s Eastern Shore ‘Loupe season; in Pirate Kristin’s it’s not nearly so romantic.  We have four seasons here in southern Louisiana: football, Mardi Gras, crawfish, and hurricane; and we’ve just entered the latter one.  No storms yet — it’s early — but the heat and humidity make sailing a very catch-as-catch can proposition for the next few months.  So when we had a beautiful afternoon wind and temperatures just in the low-90s last Sunday, we grabbed some crew, dashed to the boat and took off for a sunset sail.  It was glorious.  But what do you serve when there’s no time to shop, little time to prep, and it’s too hot to turn anything on in the galley but the fan?  Answer: cool, calming cantaloupe, however you can.  Try this out for your Independence Day!

Caroline has the exquisite prosciutto wrapped melon slices covered, so on Upward Wing we went with a cantaloupe mint mocktail, and a Middle Eastern-inspired salad.

Cantaloupe and Feta Salad With Za’atar

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1/2 cantaloupe
1/2 bag arugula
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
Extra virgin olive oil
3-4 teaspoons za’atar seasoning or sea salt and fresh pepper

Cantaloupe-Mint Mocktail

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1/2 cup cantaloupe
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Handful of fresh mint
Gin, for the drinkers among ye!

Because we made these two things together in one seamless process (nevermind the beat upwind, followed by downwind run with following seas that sent us rolling around the galley a bit), we are going to describe them that way below.  If you just want one recipe and its set of instructions, the cards below will break them out.

In the “working with what we have” department, we had one moderately-sized cantaloupe, so we split it between the two recipes, which fed three crew generously — you could probably stretch it to four.  Cut the melon in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.

Scoop the flesh from half the melon into your hand-cranked food processor.  You’re going to be grinding away a couple times in this post — be sure to claim that credit when you point at someone else to bring the heavy, Kevlar 150 headsail around!

Grind this up as finely as you care to or can-(taloupe) … (had to make that joke once; meanwhile, above was enough for me … you could have pulled this through a straw easy, and nobody was chewing their libations.)  Transfer the puree to a pitcher and give the bowl a quick rinse.

Put the feta crumbles, yogurt, and a good solid drizzle (maybe 1-2 tablespoons) of EVOO in the bowl and give this an even more hearty cranking, until fairly smooth and well incorporated.

Slice the remaining melon half into thin slices — this is most easily done by cutting the half into three wedges and carving them out while still in the skins.

Make a simple syrup by combining the sugar, water and mint in a saucepan, bringing almost to a boil, then turning off the heat and letting it steep for at least 15 minutes, until the mint is completely spent.  Remove the mint (oh, and I put the sprigs in whole rather than taking the leaves off the stems — flavor as good or better, and so much easier to pull out).  I make a double batch of this syrup and keep it in the icebox all summer — it’s delicious in otherwise unsweetened iced tea or mixed with lemon juice and water for minted lemonade.  This is a poor (for time)-man’s substitute for Skipper Doug’s falernum, which you really must try.  For now, pour about half the batch (1/4 cup) into the pitcher with the melon pure.

When ready to serve, smear a good 3-4 spoonfuls of the feta mixture on a serving plate.  Arrange the melon and arugula on top and drizzle with olive oil.  This is a good time to break out the good stuff — someone gave me a little “sampler” from some high-end olive oil farm in California, so I pulled out the “house blend” for the occasion.  Sprinkle with za’atar (or salt and pepper) — za’atar is a middle eastern spice blend that goes so well with the tangy feta/yogurt mixture.  The blends differ, but most have sumac, salt, and sesame seeds plus a few other herbs like thyme, oregano, marjoram, etc.  A little jar is totally worth having around — pita bread slathered with olive oil, sprinkled with za’atar and warmed is a great accompaniment to grilled meats and a simple salad; and of course pita is so much easier to keep on a boat than other breads.

Add ice and seltzer to fill the pitcher, and give it a good stir — beauty of a sunset sail, you can do something with ice or other frozen inputs because you can probably serve before melting sets in!  Serve to your sweltering crew and they will be refreshed in no time.  Though all abstaining, crew agreed gin would sauce this refresher up nicely if that’s your thing.

Pop your own head up from the galley and salute the sunset.



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