Because of the diverse nature of the many different restaurants and chefs Brian Henry has worked under he is highly proficient at a wide range of cuisines.

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Gastronomically yours,

Santa Clause is coming to town

 

Melons have been cultivated since around 2000 BC with the early varieties being grown throughout the regions between Egypt and India. The finest melons in the world are harvested in Afghanistan as the climate and soil conditions are perfect for this cultivar.  As people moved about the planet so did melon seeds which lead to the melon evolving into the hundreds of varieties available around the world today. Melons fall into one of three categories; Winter Melons are the slow ripening melons harvested later in the season, Netted melons are covered in a web-like lace with typically orange flesh and the Cantaloupe melons named after Cantalupo, Rome which are small in size with a rough surface that is fissured into segments. What Canadians refer to as cantaloupes are actually in the netted family and misnamed.

Melons are a member of the gourd family as are pumpkins and squash. They are eaten as a fruit in western cultures and prepared as vegetables throughout Asia.

The Santa Clause melon is a netted melon that hails from South America and is named after the time of year when they are harvested. These football shaped melons have a very thick rind that is a deep green colour splashed with yellow and light green splotches. It is exceptionally sweet with a flesh similar to the honeydew.

Benjamin Franklin once said “Men and melons are hard to know”. I couldn’t agree more with the latter of this statement as I have observed countless human rituals in the produce section of people testing the ripeness of melons. Some people squeeze the melons, some sniff the surface and others tap or knock on the melon and almost look like they are waiting for a reply from deep inside.
A ripened Santa Clause melon is assessed by feeling its blossom end that should yield to gentle pressure. Its colour should have a lively yellow hue to it as the brighter the yellow, the sweeter the melon will be. The thick flesh of the Santa Clause melon does not allow the melon to give off any aroma so you don’t need to bother sniffing its surface like other melons.

Santa Clause melons come into season in late summer in the Northern Hemisphere but can be safely stored until Christmas because of their thick rind. Specialty melon growers of Ontario have had a great season growing the Santa Clause melon as it prefers a hot dry climate and are being brought to market daily. They can be used in the same manner as a Cantaloupe and pair well with cured meats, soft cheeses, mint, red onion, and citrus juices which is why I suggest you try using one in the following recipe for a variation of Greek Salad.

The Santa Claus melon’s name is derived from its late season harvest, often arriving near Christmas. Regardless of its name it is primarily grown during the hot and dry summer

Greek Santa Salad

Ingredients:

1 cup Santa Clause melon, peeled, seeded and chopped into bit size pieces

½ cup red onion, thinly sliced

¼ cup black olives

3/4 cup red bell pepper, seeded and chopped into bit size pieces

1 seedless cucumber, sliced lengthways and chopped into bit size pieces

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

 

3 tbsp. olive oil

3 tbsp. red wine vinegar

½ tsp. fresh oregano

Juice of one lemon

Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions

In a large salad bowl, combine the Santa Clause melon, onion, olives, bell peppers, cucumber and cheese. In a separate bowl make the dressing by whisk together the olive oil, vinegar,  oregano, lemon juice and black pepper. Pour dressing over salad, toss and serve. Optionally you may add one head of romaine lettuce chopped into bit size pieces to this salad.

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