Karen Barnaby: Melons have their day in the sun

Melons, like tomatoes, strawberries, and most other fruits, are only good in season when the sun has baked in the flavor. To make a good melon dish, you need a good melon.


Watermelon has been on a roll for the last few years. Started with watermelon and feta salad. Then someone added cucumbers and someone else added blueberries. Other voices intervened with strawberries, tomatoes, mint and arugula.

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But wait! People started grilling it and adding corn, halloumi cheese, shrimp, kale, peaches, etc, etc.

The watermelon PR machine kept going, but who was there to advocate for other melons? The melon, the molasses and the canary?

Prosciutto and melon had its day, but there is more to explore than just that. The elegant and fragrant texture far exceeds that of the watermelon in my books. Watermelon is the cheeky teenage brother, and the other melons are his charming little sisters. Its sweetness and texture are good to combine with stronger and saltier flavors.

Melons, like tomatoes, strawberries, and most other fruits, are only good in season when the sun has baked in the flavor. To make a good melon dish, you need a good melon.

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Your nose can guide you to a good melon. Inhale deeply from the stem end. If it smells like floral and honeydew melon, chances are it tastes the same. In my quest for melon perfection, I started using a tactic from the Marie Kondo playbook. I pick up the melon and ask if it “generates joy”. If so, it’s a good melon. Give it a try, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Melon Salad with Bacon, Blue Cheese and Walnuts

This salad makes a great warm weather main dish or can be served with simply prepared chicken, pork, or salmon. Use cantaloupe or honeydew melon, or both.

1/2 cup (125 ml) diced melon, peeled and seeded

2 tablespoons (30 ml) cider vinegar

1 tablespoon (15ml) honey

1 teaspoon (5 mL) Dijon mustard

4 tablespoons (60ml) olive oil

1/4 teaspoon (1ml) salt

4 cups (1 L) packed mixed greens, spinach, or arugula

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4 slices bacon, cooked and crisp, cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) pieces

1/4 cup (60 ml) red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup (60 ml) blue cheese, crumbled

1 1/2 cups (375 ml) peeled and seeded melon, cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) cubes

1/4 cup (60 ml) walnuts or pecans, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped

For the vinaigrette, mix the chopped melon, vinegar, honey, mustard, olive oil and salt in a blender. Puree until smooth.

Place the lettuce on a serving plate and sprinkle with the bacon, onion, blue cheese, melon, and walnuts. Serve immediately, passing the vinaigrette separately.

Makes 4-6 servings

spicy grilled melon

Cooked melon takes on a sweeter, more complex flavor. It can also be roasted in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 400ºF (200ºC) if you don’t have a grill.

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This is good served with Mexican and Thai food.

1/4 of melon peeled and without seeds

1/4 sweet melon, peeled and seeded

Olive oil and salt for roasting

Finely grated zest of 1/2 lime

1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 ml) lime juice

1 teaspoon (5ml) honey

1 teaspoon (5 ml) sweet paprika

1/8 teaspoon (0.5 ml) cayenne pepper

1/8 teaspoon (0.5 ml) salt

2 tablespoons (30ml) olive oil

Cut each melon wedge into 4 smaller wedges.

Whisk together lime zest, juice, honey, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, and olive oil. Reserve.

Heat your barbecue over high heat. Lightly oil and salt the melon wedges and place them flat side down on the rack. Cook until grilled, then flip and grill the other side. Remove from grill, place on serving plate and drizzle with vinaigrette. Serve immediately.

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Makes 4 servings of side dish

caprese melon

For the cheese, use a roll of fresh mozzarella or bocconcini. The vinaigrette is served on the side so it doesn’t interfere with the good looks of the salad.

1/2 lb (250 g) fresh mozzarella cheese

1/4 of melon peeled and without seeds

1/4 of molasses peeled and without seeds

4 teaspoons (20 ml) balsamic vinegar

4 tablespoons (60ml) olive oil

1/4 teaspoon (1ml) salt

1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon (15 ml) shallot or red onion, finely sliced

1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped if large

Cut the mozzarella into 1/4-inch (0.6-cm) slices. Cut the melon wedges crosswise into 1/4-inch (0.6-cm) slices. Whisk the vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper together.

Arrange the melon and mozzarella on a serving plate. Sprinkle with shallots and basil leaves. Serve the vinaigrette on the side.

Makes 4-6 servings

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Instagram: karenbarnaby

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