Mellow Melon Sorbet
When I think of melon, I think of driving home from the eastern shore of Maryland. Stopping at a roadside fruit stand to pick up plump tomatoes, a dozen ears of corn, and a sun kissed melon – and a possibly a little tube of strawberry flavored honey. When I think of melon, I think of summer.
Happy August, everyone! My favorite month of the year.
I grew up with the sticky August heat of the east coast. Very different from the SF bay area’s interpretation of August: groggy morning weather with the potential to burn off by mid-day. Even though my east coast sense fails at detecting summer, the calendar does not lie. It is August and it is time to eat melon.
A recent trip to the farmer’s market filled my need for creative exploration with summer produce: stone fruit caprese salads, smoky summer succotash, and cantaloupe sorbet. When the weather is warm, what better way to eat cantaloupe than in frozen form? In season, cantaloupe tastes like luscious sweet caramel. I hear people all the time talk trash about cantaloupe, describing it as tasteless, mealy plaster. Pro tip: If you eat fruit and vegetables when they are supposed to be “in season”, then they will taste better. The flavor of a frankenfruit is not comparable to fruit from Frank the farmer. Yes, we have the technology to grow cantaloupe in December, store it for a month or two in a refrigerator, and ship it off to a store near you. Follow the calendar and wait until summer to gorge on melon. The trick is to pick a good one.
How to Pick a Good Cantaloupe:
Color: Check the rind and webbing for a cream, tan, yellowish color. If it is green, be patient. Some cantaloupe varieties stay green when ripe, so best to ask whoever is selling/ growing them.
Condition: Make sure there is no mold or rot. The rind should be firm.
"Belly Button": Ripe cantaloupe should pluck off the vine. Choose a melon that has a smooth "belly button" rather than a long stem "outie" belly button.
Smell: A ripe melon should give off a delicious sweet smell from the blossom end, opposite the stem. If the smell is more like fermented alcohol, skip to the next one.
Health Benefits of Cantaloupe:
Cantaloupe, also known as Muskmelon, is in the cucumber, squash, and pumpkin family. It is named after a small town near Rome that developed the fruit as we know it. One cup of the sweet melon contains about 80% of your daily Vitamin C needs, over 100 % of B6, and 30% of Vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene. The flesh also houses a number of quality nutrients including potassium, fiber, folic acid, and other B vitamins. The wide array of phytonutrient carotenoids gives cantaloupe its beautiful orange color (like carrots) and anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory properties*. If you are concerned about the sugar content, rest easy.** It is relatively low in sugar compared to other fruits, on average containing about 10g/ 1 cup.
This recipe incorporates fresh Basil, and a tincture of basil's sister Holy Basil, also known as Tulsi. Holy basil has a pleasant, slightly sweet flavor that complements melon. The alcohol in the herbal tincture (about 1 tsp) maintains the sorbet's soft texture by lowering the freezing point, making the sorbet more scoop-able. Holy basil acts as an adaptogen - meaning it helps our body function during times of stress. The natural compounds in holy basil, like eugenol, regulate stress hormones. I often add the tincture to hot water and drink as a calming tea before bed. Although in the summer, I'm finding I crave cooler version - Mellow Melon Sorbet.
Mellow Melon Sorbet
Makes about 6 servings
· 1 large or 2 small ripe cantaloupes (about 3 1/2 cups chopped)
· 1 cup coconut sugar** (only using about 2 tbsp in whole recipe)
· ½ cup warm water
· a few sprigs fresh basil
· pinch sea salt
· 3-4 full droppers of Holy Basil Tincture/ Extract
1. Skin, seed, and chop melon into cubes and place in freezer for at least two hours.
2. Meanwhile, make basil infused simple syrup by adding 1 cup coconut sugar to 1/2 cup water with basil leaves. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer for a few minutes until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and strain basil leaves (and then eat them, basil candy). Allow to cool before storing in refrigerator.
3. Once cantaloupe is frozen, blend in food processor until smooth with 2 tbsp basil simple syrup, salt, and Holy Basil Tincture.
4. Pour in parchment paper lined loaf pan and store in freezer for a least a few hours to set. Before serving sorbet, let thaw for a few minutes for easy scooping.
** The sweeter the cantaloupe, then the less sugar you will need to add. I use coconut sugar over cane sugar and corn syrup for its mineral content. Adding sugar (even a small amount) is needed to achieve a sorbet consistency. You can omit sugar completely and call it granita! A same, same, but different dessert with an icy texture. This recipe will leave you with leftover basil infused coconut simple syrup, which will keep in the refrigerator. Use the syrup in replace of honey or maple syrup. 😉
* Murray, Michael, N.D. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York: Atria Books, 2005.