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Wonder what to eat on a summer day? Can't beat cantaloupe


Lately I have been 'louping along.

When I get hungry I crack open a cantaloupe. I feast on it at the day's three main eating events: breakfast, supper and dessert.

For breakfast I cut a slice of the melon and eat it with a spoon. It is a fragrant start to a summer morning. At supper I mix chopped 'loupe with minced onion, green pepper strips, a little red wine vinegar and use the mixture to top grilled tuna steak.

For the main event of the day, dessert, I make cantaloupe ice cream.

One of the reasons I'm now so sweet on 'loupes, is that earlier this summer I had a run-in with a sour one.

I was driving back to Baltimore from the Eastern Shore, when I stopped at a roadside stand in Salisbury off Route 12. I bought some good corn and reasonable tomatoes there, but the lTC cantaloupe turned out to be soft. I should have known better. It had been raining for the better part of a week, and melons soak up water.

Moreover, if I had paid attention I would have noticed that none of the other customers were interested in the 'loupes.

One woman, who apparently lived nearby and shopped regularly at the stand, saw me eyeing the 'loupes and tried to drop me a hint. "I haven't had a good melon this year," she said, "they have been mushy."

I wasn't listening. By then I had begun checking out the cantaloupes, trying to find a ripe one. I examined the skin, looking for even "netting." I eyed the color of the skin, looking for a slight yellow undertone. I pushed the end opposite the stem, and felt slight pressure and got a pleasing whiff of cantaloupe perfume.

I was convinced this was the 'loupe of my dreams. It turned ou to be like a dream, one of those mushy ones. When I got home and opened the 'loupe up, the meat of the melon almost fell out. It was too ripe and watery even to use in home made ice cream.

All I could do was carry the spoiled 'loupe to the trash. Only rotten crabs smell worse than a 'loupe past its prime.

So the next time I bought a melon -- at a stand in the Sunday morning Farmer's Market in downtown Baltimore -- I let the fella selling the melons pick it out.

"When do you want to eat it?" he asked.

"For breakfast tomorrow," I said.

He handed me a big melon, with perfect netting, and slight, yellow undertone to the skin. "Put it in the refrigerator when you get home," he said.

I intended to do as I was told. But when I got home the fridge was jammed.

And the 'loupe smelled so inviting. I couldn't wait. I opened it up, cut off the skin and cut the melon into bright orange slices.

After eating a few, I tossed the rest in a plastic dish and carried them to a spot where they might catch the attention of my marauding children -- the neighborhood swimming pool.

When the the kids came out of the water, not only did they eat the fruit, they devoured it. Kids who have been swimming all day are like fish, they have feeding frenzies.

Here, from "Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book" ($8, Workman Publishing), is a recipe for cantaloupe ice cream:

Cantaloupe ice cream

Makes 1 quart.

1 large or 2 small, very ripe cantaloupes

juice of 1 lemon

sweet cream base (see below)

Cut the cantaloupe in half and clean out the seeds. Scoop fruit into a mixing bowl, add the lemon juice and mash until the fruit is pureed. Drain the juice into another bowl and reserve. Cover the melon puree and refrigerate.

Prepare the sweet cream base and whisk in fruit juice.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer's instructions.

After the ice cream stiffens (about 2 minutes before it is done), add the cantaloupe. If more juice has accumulated, do not pour it in because it will water down the ice cream. Continue freezing until the ice cream is ready.

Sweet cream base

2 cups heavy or whipping cream

3/4 cup sugar

2/3 cup half and half

Pour the cream into a mixing bowl. Whisk in sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. Pour in half and half and whisk to blend.

In last Wednesday's column a recipe for grilled chicken breasts omitted 1 tablespoon of grated fresh ginger from the ingredient list.

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