Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cantaloupe Granita & Caramel Cream Parfait

Sixteen Charentais melons have been harvested in our potager last week, and there are another seven threatening maturity soon--lovely, sun-kissed, plump beauties emitting their potent fragrance as they sit on window sills, nestle in fridges, and lay in their patch awaiting judicious plucking. Several are almost the size of honeydew melons.

Charentais melons, summer pears, and Roma tomatoes from the potager

Besides serving them au nature or with ice cream/whipped cream (you could use both simultaneously), one can go the sweet fondue route and dip chunks of melon in warm salted caramel sauce. If something even more fabulous is desired then a parfait is the answer.

When the melon is good, simple works.

Some everbearing strawberries and raspberries from the potager were added to the melon cubes

Caramel sauce becomes fluid when left out for an hour during warm weather

Cantaloupe Granita & Caramel Cream Parfait

I remember well from my New York City childhood, street vendors in the summer shaving ice off a huge block, putting the jagged bits in a paper cone, saturating them with jewel-coloured, super-concentrated fruit syrups, and the best part, being handed this delight. Granita is a fancy, fruitier version of this simple summer treat.

Granita not only tastes great on its own, but is a good way of preserving lots of fruit

A light sugar syrup, flavoured or not, is made first. Fruit puree is then mixed with it and as the mixture is gradually freezing, stirring is done sporadically. C'est tout!

For about a quart of granita, two medium-sized cantaloupes (3 cups/24 ounces* of melon cubes) should provide enough for the granita recipe and some extra for fresh eating/garnishing. Additionally four ounces* of sugar, four ounces* of water, and two teaspoons of minced orange zest will be needed. *fluid measure (recipe can be multiplied)

One orange should suffice for making the zest. Wash and dry the orange well especially if it has been treated. I find a small ceramic knife works better than a zester. Remember you want just the thin orange skin with no white bits.

Put sugar, water, and orange zest in a medium-sized pot and over high heat stir until all sugar is dissolved which should take no more than five minutes. You will be able to see clearly the bottom of the pan. Then over medium heat, simmer for a minute.

Remove from heat, pour into an eight-inch-square or nine-inch round metal cake pan (several metal ice cube trays without their dividers could be substituted) and let cool. Make room in the freezer for it so when required it can be easily positioned.

Scrub melons well, cut in halves, scoop out the seeds, then slice thickly. Using a knife remove the flesh from the skin and make small cubes.

That's a tablespoon, not a teaspoon, in the largest melon (nearly ten inches in diameter!) from our patch

Via a blender or food processor, roughly puree the melon pieces. There should be just under sixteen fluid ounces of puree.

Puree will be lumpy

Add the puree to the syrup and whisk well.

Place the pan in the freezer.  Every ninety minutes until it is frozen, stir the mixture with a fork. When frozen (it took about six hours in my freezer), cover pan with foil or plastic wrap and keep in freezer until needed. When ready to assemble the parfait, take out the granita and scrape the surface with the tines of a fork.

Voila! Delicious, golden slush.

For the parfait, you will need cantaloupe granita, whipped cream, caramel sauce, and fresh melon pieces. Whip the cream with a small amount of sugar. Into each level tablespoon of fluid caramel sauce, fold three heaping tablespoons of whipped cream. While folding, let some caramel swirls remain.

For each serving, layer as neatly and evenly as possible two heaping tablespoons of granita, one heaping tablespoon of the caramel cream and repeat. Top with a piece of fresh melon. This pretty melon parfait was light and luscious at the same time.

Within two weeks of resuming his regular schedule after his long recovery from a paw injury, Dayo has shown all feline interlopers that the garden is still his garden.

To celebrate this important occasion, he ceremoniously jogged from a distance while I was working a veggie bed. The something in his mouth turned out to be a very still mouse. He graciously and carefully laid it on its back at my feet. Remaining motionless, it then suddenly turned over while giving out some of the most endearing high-pitched sounds I ever heard. Quick as, well, a mouse, it smartly hid under the tiles framing the bed completely flummoxing Dayo. One second, bringing home the bacon, the next, staring at an empty skillet! The look on Dayo's face was almost as heartbreaking as the little squeaks of the mouse were.

À la prochaine!


Harvesting Charentais melons
Making salted caramel sauce
How to fold in whipped ingredients