Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Slice and Dice: Summer Melon

Watermelon and canteloupe with prosciutto

Melons are the underdogs of summer. Bulky and thick-skinned, their beauty lies within (making them easy to ignore). However, on a hot day when there’s sweat suspended on your brow, melons provide more relief than a pretty peach or a palmful of berries. Nearly 90 percent water, a wedge of watermelon or spoonful of cantaloupe often offers more nuance and refreshment than a fancy poolside drink. So, if you didn't get a beach vacation this summer, don’t fret. Pull out a lawn chair and slice up a melon.   

How to Select a Summer Melon

Although there are many varieties of melon grown in the U.S., cantaloupe and watermelon are often the easiest to find. The fruit that is sold as cantaloupe is often really muskmelon. Unlike true cantaloupe, muskmelon has deeply netted skin that resembles a curvy Celtic pattern. Look for a muskmelon that feels solid, but is not rock hard. Beware: If the skin has a greenish tone, it’s not fully ripe. Always give the fruit a whiff. If it’s ready to eat, you’ll breathe in a sweet perfume.

Ripe watermelon should feel heavy for its size. In addition, look for a patch of light yellow skin on the side that was resting on the ground.

How to Peel a Summer Melon

Muskmelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, and other sweet summer melons can be peeled.

Melons grow on the ground, so be sure to wash them thoroughly.

Place the melon on a cutting board on its side. Hold it in place with one hand. In the other hand, hold a chef’s knife perpendicular to the cutting board and slice off the stem end and the end opposite to it.

Slicing off one end of the canteloupe

Slicing the skin of the melon in thick strips

When the knife hits the cutting board, discard the strip of skin. Rotate the fruit, and continue peeling the skin until all of it is removed.

How to Slice a Summer Melon

Cut the skinned melon in half lengthwise. 

Scoop out the seeds with a spoon. 

Hold one half of the melon on the cutting board with the seeded side facing up. With a chef’s knife, slice it in half lengthwise. 

Continue to slice each melon quarter lengthwise until each piece is an inch or so thick. 

Slicing in half, seeding, and cutting the melon in wedges

How to Cube a Summer Melon

Place a slice of the melon on a cutting board. Hold the end of the slice securely with one hand, and cut across the length of the melon with a chef's knife to form cubes.

Cutting the melon in cubes

How to Cut a Small Watermelon into Wedges

Note: Watermelon has much thicker skin (often referred to as a rind) than other summer melons. Be sure to use a sharp knife when cutting it. You can also stabilize it by placing a damp kitchen towel between it and the cutting board before making the first cut.

Select a small watermelon and place it on a cutting board with the stem side down. With a chef's knife, cut it in half lengthwise. With the cut side facing up, cut each half of the melon in half lengthwise. Take each quartered piece and slice it in half lengthwise again.

Cutting the watermelon in half and then in quarters

How to Cut a Large Watermelon into Wedges

Place a large watermelon on a cutting board with the stem side down and cut it in half lengthwise. With the cut sides facing down, cut each half in half lengthwise again to make quarters. Place one quarter of the melon on the cutting board, with the rind facing you and one of the cut sides facing down. Cut it widthwise into 1-inch thick triangular slices. Repeat with remaining quarters.

Cutting the watermelon in half and quarters and then into wedges

To cube the watermelon, simply place a slice on the cutting board with one side of the flesh touching the board. With a paring knife, cut the rind away from the flesh. 

Cutting the watermelon along the rind

With a chef’s knife, cut across the fruit.

Cutting across the watermelon wedge

Rotate the fruit 90 degree and cut across it again to form cubes. 

Cutting the melon to form cubes

How to Make Melon Balls

Press the melon baller into the fruit, avoiding the rind. Rotate it 360 degrees to form a circle, and then drop the melon ball into a bowl. Repeat until no more balls can be taken from the melon, leaving space between each scoop to ensure melon balls are completely round and cutting the melon down to a smaller size from time to time to reveal untouched flesh.

Using a melon baller to form spheres

This article was originally published on
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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Kadala Stew

Chickpea varieties_edited-3

Poke around the dhal section of any Indian grocery store, and you’ll find kala channa (pictured to the right above) stacked among a mystifying selection of legumes. They look dwarf-like next to Kabuli chickpeas (pictured to the right), but offer an earthier flavor and a richer color than their more common culinary cousins. Be sure to soak these thick-skinned peas overnight.

Soaking chickpeas_edited-1
Saute onions ginger garlic_edited-1
Grinding coriander fennel turmeric red pepper_edited-1

Kadala curry - 1_edited-1


Kala channa are the chickpeas of choice in Kerala. They’re referred to as kadala locally, and used to make a hearty vegan dish flavored with coconut milk, coriander, and a mix of other spices. Although Kadala Stew is typically served at breakfast alongside puttu (a steamed cake made of rice flour and shredded coconut), leftovers are often spooned over plain rice.  
Serves 4


1 cup uncooked kala channa
1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick
1 1/2 cups water plus 3 tablespoons
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely diced onions
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
10 to 15 curry leaves
1/2 cup diced tomato
3/4 cup coconut milk


Place chickpeas in a medium size pot. Cover with water. Swish around and drain water.
Cover the chickpeas with water and soak for 12 hours. Drain water.

Add 1 1/2 cups of water. Add the cinnamon stick and salt.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and cook until the chickpeas are tender (about an hour and a half.)

Place the coriander, cayenne, fennel, and turmeric in a spice grinder and grind to a fine powder.

Transfer ground spices to a small bowl. Add a tablespoon of water and stir to form a paste.

Heat oil in a medium sized saute pan over medium low heat. Add the onions, ginger, garlic, and curry leaves. Cook until the onions turn translucent (about 10 minutes).

Stir in the spice paste and cook for 1 minute, stirring continuously.

Add the tomato and 2 tablespoons of water. Cook until the tomato softens.

Add the chickpeas and cook for 5 minutes.

Reduce heat to low. Stir in coconut milk and cook for 5 minutes.
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