Tuesday, July 19, 2011

ingredient: CANTALOUPE

photo from geekspeakllc via flikr

My family seriously loves cantaloupe. I can't tell you exactly how much poundage we go through every summer, but let's just say that if cantaloupes were cannon balls we could have sunk the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.

What is it about these melons that I prize above all others? Well, though I do love watermelon, I hate dealing with the seeds. And let's be honest, mushy or bland watermelon is all too common. I like honeydew, but sometimes it's too sweet, or too green applely, and something about it reminds me of bad hotel breakfasts. (Yes, if there was a fruit fault-finding contest I would surely win.) Cantaloupe is juicy yet firm. It's floral without being saccharine, refreshing yet sweet. And hey, if diners caught onto the nutritional benefits of cantaloupe in the 50s, I would hope you've taken notice as well.

In fact it's cantaloupe that may have saved the lives of the thousands of chain smoking, cottage cheese and melon- eating, dieting women of yore. Carcinogens in cigarette smoke induce vitamin A deficiency, and just one cup of cantaloupe has one hundred percent of your daily vitamin A. The vitamin A in cantaloupe not only restores your vitamin balance but helps prevent lung cancer and emphysema. Vitamin A also protects your eyes from the muscular degeneration associated with aging- though studies show you're much more likely to reap the benefits from the fruit than from pills. In other words, contacts ain't got nothin' on me.

Spicy Grilled Chicken with Cantaloupe Salsa

*sorry the pictures are so-so. My new iphone has found its first fault.

The only thing I can think of that I dislike about living in New York City is that I don't have a grill. Yes, I have a George Forman- and let's be real, I love that thing- but there is nothing quite like grilling outside in the summer. Luckily my boyfriend feels the same way. So on a recent trip home from Shelter Island, we forced our tired (and tan!) butts to detour to his parents house in Long Island in order to take advantage of their grill. It proved to be a great idea: the moon was full, the night was warm, and there were actually fireflies flitting their way around the lawn.

After a weekend of heavy eating we wanted something light and summery, so we went with grilled chicken and salsa. Before you sigh in boredom, I'll explain that these humble pieces of poultry are rubbed all over in a mixture of paprika, cayenne, cumin, and thyme. By creating a sort of crust, the spices seal in moisture and make the chicken extra moist and flavorful.

And while he manned the grill, I assembled this seriously easy cantaloupe salsa. Ripe cantaloupe is key, but that shouldn't be a problem in the summer. The fruit's sweet, honeyed flavor is brightened by lime juice and given some heat from jalapenos. Red onions add an acidic crunch, and the overall effect is a spicy-sweet, refreshing salsa that paired perfectly with the spice rubbed grilled chicken breasts. And because it comes together in about five minutes, I could hang outside and watch the grilling. One note: we like things spicy. If you're sensitive to spice, cut the rub in half.

serves two


for chicken:

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon cayenne
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

for salsa:

2 cups diced cantaloupe
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 jalapeno, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 teaspoons olive oil
juice of 2 limes
salt and pepper to taste


For Chicken:

In a small bowl, whisk together spices. Rub chicken breasts all over with olive oil, then with spice mixture.

Prepare your barbecue over medium heat. Wipe Grill with nonstick cooking spray or olive oil. Grill chicken breasts until skin is crisp and the meat is juicy and just cooked through, about five minutes per side. Let rest five minutes before serving.

For Salsa:

In a medium bowl, combine cantaloupe, red onion, jalapeno, and cilantro. Toss to blend. Squeeze limes over salsa. Add olive oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

1 comment:

  1. The old standby of chilled, sweet, cantaloupe paired with salty prosciutto has got to be one of our favorite things come summertime. Your pairing of spice and sweet sounds and looks like a home run. LOL about Columbus' fleet!