Cantaloupe Caprese

July 26, 2010


Appetizers, Dinner, Local Eating, Lunch, Recipes, Seasons, Side Dishes, Summer

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My melon vine went crazy this spring. Or maybe I’m mad, to project a state of mind on a plant. But there must be one. How else could plants send their tendrils and curlicues out into the firmament to find makeshift trellises? It took my melon vine a matter of days to reach and climb the fennel fronds, basil stems and hot pepper plant that were rooted several feet away. I’ve never grown a melon before, but its enthusiasm was impressive. It even managed to thrive through this summer’s violent weather, including sustained weeks of torrential rain; scorching sun and the constant 100-degree days. Many of my other plants succumbed to the Biblical weather patterns, but the demure Cantaloupes that emerged from the ambitious vine were a consolation.

For the last two years, Christopher and I have grown our own herbs and a few potted tomatoes on our stoop. In October, when we returned from our honeymoon, we decided to lay some real roots in Houston and build a garden bed in the backyard. Fortunately, this southern season makes it possible to begin planting in early October, and our first harvest was lovely: Brussels sprouts, carrots, broccoli and lots of leafy things. This spring, I was especially excited to put in the tiny melon seed—far, far away from the other plants, in a corner all its own.


When I got home from Africa, most of our plants had done remarkably well, hostile weather aside. My basil had bolted and been bored by some hungry bug, but many leaves were salvageable enough to chiffonade. There was a bright orange summer squash, a hot red pepper, a few final cherry tomatoes and two very demure melons, which contrasted starkly with their unruly vine: it had wrapped itself around the entire garden perimeter, and was actually crawling along the grass in search of greater heights. I think that before summer ends, it might find the fence and take over our neighbors’ yard.

The melons were so special to me, I wasn’t sure exactly how to put them to use. After careful consideration, I settled on a summer favorite that would showcase several of our survivors: melons, basil and a few cherry tomatoes. It’s the consistencies that make this salad special—the mozzarella is soft and rich, while the tomatoes resist the fork just a bit. The melon pulls it together, bringing out the sweetness of the cheese and tempering the gentle acid of the tomatoes. A little sea salt will draw out the melon juice, which mix nicely with some olive oil for a light, sweet dressing. Best of all, making it will only costs five minutes of summer.

Cantaloupe Caprese
Serves 2-4

1 medium-sized Cantaloupe, very ripe, cut in half and seeded

1 pint cherry tomatoes

4 large leaves fresh basil

1.5 C bocconcini cheese (or small mozzarella balls)

1 T best quality olive oil

sea salt


Scoop melon in tiny rounds, about the size of cherry tomatoes.

(I don’t have a melon baller, but used a round teaspoon measuring spoon, which worked perfectly.)

Place melon, tomatoes and cheese in a bowl and coat with olive oil.

Toss and set aside until ready to serve (salad can be made a few hours ahead.)

Just before serving, tear basil leaves and toss into salad.

Sprinkle with sea salt and serve.

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