In our home, desserts like baklava and galaktoboureko were not staples after every dinner, but fruit certainly was. Even when we were fortunate enough to have a sweet dessert, fruit was still served, between the main meal and the grand, often syrupy, finale. Whether it was a bowl of clementines, some grapes, or cherries, fruit was always part of our meal. Even when we felt so full that we couldn’t possibly eat another bite, as the fruit bowl hit the table, we dove right in. Fresh fruit is hard to resist.
Cantaloupe and honeydew have always been particular favourites in our family, and were often served when company was over, probably because a couple of large melons easily feeds several people. Sometimes, our parents would get fancy, and instead of serving the melon on it’s own, they would soak it in ouzo. This would result in oohs and ahhs coming from the adults, as they ate from the grown-up fruit, leaving us kids wondering what all the commotion was about. Years later, adults ourselves, we had a taste, and the cause for the commotion, was clear.
Cantaloupe (and all melons, in fact) should always be washed before cutting into them, despite the fact that you do not eat the peel. Using running water and a clean brush to scrub your melon can significantly decrease the risk of salmonella contamination. If you would like to read more, consult this article in the International Journal of Food Microbiology. It’s fascinating (and horrifying) stuff.
When serving cantaloupe plain, our parents slice it into wedges, cut the wedges into chunks, and then serve it in a bowl. When they are making this cantaloupe and ouzo dessert however they take a little more care, and use either a melon baller or a small ice-cream scooper to cut out small balls of melon. This not only makes the cantaloupe appear fancier, but it also ensures that there is more opportunity for the ouzo to permeate the melon evenly.
The melon should soak in the ouzo for at least 2 hours, but longer is fine. If you are going to serve it more than 2 hours after preparing it, keep the cantaloupe in the refrigerator. Bring it to room temperature before serving.
Mia Kouppa: Cantaloupe with ouzo
- 1/2 large cantaloupe or about 2 1/2 cups (625 ml) of melon balls
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) ouzo
- 1 teaspoon (4 ml) sugar
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) water
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) finely chopped fresh mint
- Wash your melon prior to cutting it using running water and a clean brush. Using a melon baller, or a small ice cream scooper, make your cantaloupe balls. Set the melon aside in a large, non-metallic bowl.
- In a smaller bowl mix together the ouzo, sugar and water. Stir well until the sugar dissolves. Pour over the cantaloupe. Add the finely chopped mint. Mix well and set aside for approximately 2 hours. If you will be setting it aside for longer than 2 hours, keep it in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.
- Serve in individual servings, being sure to pour any liquid which has been left behind in the mixing bowl over the cantaloupe. Enjoy.