*Note: Use care when handling nettles. Their little stingers are not terribly dangerous, but they can cause a great deal of discomfort. I like to wear rubber gloves or use tongs to handle them...
Since I've already admitted to culinary heresy by saying I don't like cantaloupe, I have no qualms telling you about my latest blasphemous act of cookery. In an effort to use a very large melon (counter space is dear even out in the country), I tried something a bit daring.
I've had revelations with roasted fruit. In the spring, the only thing better than a field-ripened strawberry is a roasted field-ripened strawberry. Roasted peaches are a syrupy dream. Roasted figs are like candy. And so, I thought, what's the harm in trying to roast a cantaloupe?
It's a slightly unorthodox move, and I realize that a lot of you are probably gasping at the thought. Why on earth would you ruin a perfectly fine cantaloupe by roasting it? By applying heat to its succulent, sherbet-hued flesh? My only answer is that sometimes the very thing you dislike will provoke creativity.
The things we love, whether it's chocolate, oysters, or peanut butter, can become too sacred. We forget to experiment with them. Whereas, the things we dislike aren't untouchable, and we can play a bit more without worrying about the outcome.
Sometimes when I take these risks I'm wrong. The end result isn't worth fooling with. But I'm right enough of the time to be encouraged by my successes, and the risk is absolutely worth taking.
And I was right about the cantaloupe. The only thing this fruit needed in order to seduce me was a good roast. After cutting the fruit into cubes, I sprinkled them with just a touch of sugar. I used vanilla sugar because I had some on hand. I'm learning very quickly that vanilla bean and honey are made for cantaloupe.
Then, I roasted the cantaloupe for about 20 minutes at 400˚F. The flesh relaxes--don't expect the crispness of a fresh cantaloupe--and the sugar caramelizes. It's a completely different experience. Frankly, it's the experience I was looking for. I've been eating the cantaloupe straight-up, on my morning oatmeal, and on ice cream. I can imagine it being at home in a bowl of Greek yogurt or even over buttered toast.
I urge you to try this, especially if you have a surplus of melon. What's more, it's always refreshing to taste something familiar in a new way.
This is a mere guideline. If you're not sure about this, but want to try it anyway, roast a small cantaloupe. If you're feeling a little more devil-may-care, roast a big one.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Wash, cut in half, and remove the seeds from:
Cut into wedges, and then into cubes.
If you like, toss the cubes with a little sugar, to the tune of:
If the melon is a very sweet one, it will not need the extra sugar. If it's on the watery side, though, adding a little sugar helps with the caramelization. Vanilla sugar is a lovely addition, and if you ever use vanilla beans, there's no reason you shouldn't have some vanilla sugar tucked away in your pantry. If you don't have any, make some straightaway. It's a nice little secret ingredient to have on hand.
Roast until the melon begins to look a little shriveled and has started to caramelize, about 20 minutes. Cool completely. Serve over oatmeal, yogurt, ice cream, custard, or anywhere else where you need mild fruit accompaniment.