Marvelous Melons and Not-So-Glittering Generalizations About Weather

July 19, 2010 at 11:02 pm Leave a comment

    “Minnesota is either too hot or too cold,” my Florida-craving stepmother once observed.  That phrase in turn inspired her brief rendition of Jimmy Dorsey’s lyrical lament on behalf of the gals (and in regard to the guys) left stateside during World War II:  “They are either too young or too old…Either they’re gray or they’re grassy green…The pickings are poor and the crop is lean.” 

While we do sometimes seem to be hurled abruptly from the deep freeze of winter into the cauldron of summer heat and humidity, weather absolutes of course invite refutation – just as the Dorsey verse must have raised objections among the “gray and grassy green.”  Weather statistics confirm that we did have a smattering of lovely days in the upper 70s just a few weeks ago, for example, although the memory of them melts away pretty quickly from a brain exposed to 90+ degree temps and a wet blanket of air that holds water vapor like a freshly baked loaf of French bread sucks up warm olive oil. 

As I write this, the official readings for the Twin Cities are a temperature of 83° with 58% relative humidity and a dew point (whatever that is) of 65.  I don’t know where these guys take their measurements, but my suburban thermometer reads 90, in the shade – literally. 

But weather-gauging arguments aside, I do know that when I walk every day, year-round, my body doesn’t seem to be jarred by seasonal changes, so perhaps nature does ease us more gently from “hot to cold” than fickle human perceptions apprehend.  And I also know that I am blessed – or cursed – with an appetite that is virtually never diminished by atmospheric conditions.  So into the kitchen I take my shower-refreshed self to drum up something tasty but light, since not everyone is endowed with my steel-hulled constitution. 

I return to basics and assemble a classic favorite, Cobb Salad, and turn to my recipe files to ferret out a version of Honey-Pecan Bran Muffins I came up with a few months ago.  For a final course, some chilled, cubed Canary Melon.  I discovered this lovely, mildy sweet variety just last week, and managed to impress my table mates with the find.

I think, as summer menus go, you could call that a meal.  I like these muffins so much that I eat them without spread, but a schmear of orange juice flavored margarine would be lovely, too.  Tall glasses of brewed iced tea with lemon or lime wedges round out this hot weather lunch or dinner.  Just remember to bake the muffins first thing in the morning.  Even a devoted cook can’t stand the heat and gets out of the kitchen at some point.

I learned a few things looking up original Cobb Salad recipes (did you know that this signature dish of the brown Derby Restaurant since 1937 was an improvisation of Robert H. Cobb, a first cousin of baseball great Ty Cobb?), and of course even the sworn “originals” varied a bit.  But for two servings, this ingredient list should work out about right: 

1 bunch watercress                                 ½ head romaine                                            

½ head Boston lettuce                            1 small bunch chicory or curly endive

2 large tomatoes                                       6 strips extra crisp bacon  

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, baked or poached

2 hard-boiled eggs                                    1 large avocado, peeled

2 TB chopped chives                                 8 black olives, sliced 

Chop all lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, chicken (I like turkey breast better, and this is a great use for leftovers), eggs, and avocado into largish pieces – about ¾” – and assemble on two large dinner plates in even rows for best presentation.  Drizzle with dressing (below), and then sprinkle with olives and chives. 

The original dressing recipe is oil and vinegar with mustard and Worcestershire for flavor, but I prefer a lightly creamy finish, so I took the Roquefort out of the salad and put it into the dressing: 

2 TB fat free sour cream                            ¼ C buttermilk 

2 TB Miracle Whip                                        2 TB lemon juice

1 tsp garlic powder                                      1 tsp dried dill

½ tsp onion powder                                    ¼ C crumbled Roquefort 

                                       salt and pepper 

Put sour cream, buttermilk, Miracle Whip, and lemon juice into a small bowl and whisk until well blended.  Stir in garlic powder, dried dill, and onion powder.  Stir in cheese and salt and pepper to taste. 

A nice crusty bread would go very well with the salad, but as you may have noticed, I am fond of whole grain muffins with a bit of substance to them, and these seem to complement without competing: 

1 C bran cereal                                               1 C skim milk   

¼ C canola oil                                                1 egg

1/2 C honey                                                    ¾ C all-purpose flour

½ C whole wheat flour                                  2 tsp baking powder  

½ tsp salt                                                         ½ C chopped pecans

                               2 TB toasted wheat germ 

Heat oven to 400° and grease (or spray) 12-muffin tins. Combine cereal and milk and let stand five to fifteen minutes.  Beat in oil, egg, and honey.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt. Stir dry ingredients and pecans into wet ingredients just until moistened.  Divide batter evenly between oiled muffin cups, sprinkle tops with wheat germ, and bake for 25 minutes, or until lightly browned. 

The canary melon discovery I crowed (chirped?) about earlier involves a football-shaped fruit which can be almost as large as the pigskin plaything as well.  Also called the Juan canary melon, this deep-yellow skinned beauty is grown domestically in Arizona and southern California, and offers “meat” of such a pale green color it can appear almost white.  But don’t let the lack of pigment fool you; there is no lack of flavor in a nicely ripened version of this succulent melon – and delivers only 45-50 calories per cup with a nice slug of vitamin C, vitamin A, and dietary fiber. 

According to my post-purchase investigation, you should choose a melon with a firm body and a slight softness around the stem area, so my successful selection was sheer dumb luck.  A ready-to-eat canary melon will also be bright yellow with few blemishes – having a tough outer skin that protects it from most dings and dents in transport. 

If you can track down one of these babies for your next summer brunch or luncheon, I think your guests will be as pleasantly surprised as mine were.  It may indeed get “too hot” from time to time, but a large bowl of chilled melon cubes will take the sting out of a wickedly warm day, and in July, the pickings should be good and the crop downright corpulent.

Entry filed under: Musings of a Midwestern Foodie. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

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