Gourmet summer snacks with cantaloupe flavors

A multitude of colors and sweet refreshing flavors are a winning combination for summer culinary stories. Among numerous ingredients that entice us in these hot summer months, the cantaloupe is surely one of the front-runners of summer delights. Filled with aroma and brightly coloured, from light orange to green, it will bring infinite joy to any table. Even though cantaloupes are traditionally consumed fresh and as a dessert, they are actually comprehensive ingredients that satisfy all criteria, from appetizers to main courses, and they are also a great collaborator when preparing various drinks.

Image author: Thinkstock

Cantaloupes are grown throughout Croatia, but most plantations are located in the area of Metković. Fresh cantaloupes can be enjoyed throughout the entire summer, from June to the end of August. This fruit belongs to the pumpkin family. In Croatia, mostly ribbed cantaloupe with rough skin and vertical lines along the surface is grown, with flesh colors ranging from yellow to orange. Farmers also offer two more varieties that are equally astonishing with their colors and flavors. You can find the netted cantaloupe in stores that has bright yellow to green flesh and smooth-skinned cantaloupe usually with a sweeter taste and an oblong shape.

The main part of the cantaloupe’s charm is its quick preparation because it requires no heat-processing. Apart from the fact that it needs to be peeled and the seeds cleaned off, all other techniques of preparation include only the mechanical processing. The cantaloupe’s refreshing taste pairs beautifully with strong flavors, so it is often served in appetizers with proschiutto and aromatic cheese such as goat cheese. As it is served fresh, it is best served with similar ingredients. It goes amazingly with prawn or shrimp carpaccio, but also in summer salads.

Photo: Thinkstock

Even though the cantaloupe itself is aromatic, it also agrees well with various spices such as mint, basil, chili peppers and pepper. It can be grilled briefly, along with other summer fruit, such as peaches and figs, and served with ice-cream, and it truly shines in icy desserts, sorbets and granitas. Cantaloupe sorbet is often served in exclusive restaurants as an overture to other courses.

Culinary and owner duo of Zora Bila tavern from Split, Sandra and Dane Tahirović, have succeeded in creating a true oasis for everyone who enjoys gastronomy, in merely a few years. Clearly focused on the Mediterranean cuisine, Zora Bila has promoted itself among popular taverns of Split and their menu has been recognized also by the renowned French guide Gault & Millau. Since they always surprise their guests with seasonal dishes, for summer months they have prepared an interesting cantaloupe soup with fried prawns and chili. Sandra and Dane reveal to us how they prepare it.

Photo: Thinkstock

- One time we were making something and we came across this dish by accident. We buy yellow melons from family-owned businesses from around Zadar and sometimes from Metković. This dish is similar to cantaloupe gazpacho or cold cantaloupe soup. First we peel the melon and clean it from seeds, then we mix it in a blender and strain it. We fry the big prawns, half-cleaned beforehand, then put them on a stick like a skewer. We grill or fry prawns stacked like that in a pan. We pour the soup in a bowl, stack together the prawn skewers, add cantaloupe cubes, pumpkin seeds, a few drops of olive oil, and  sprinkle it with some chili threads.

One of the main representatives of the new wave of modern cuisine of Zagorje region is Villa Magdalena restaurant. Located in the picturesque hills of Zagorje, near Krapinske Toplice thermae, it is a blend of tradition and the contemporary. Chef de cuisine Mislav Božić has found summer inspiration in the cantaloupe in an instant and shared a few recipes with us.

- The cantaloupe is an amazing ingredient for a proper summer salad. You can make dressing from it and it goes well with other ingredients of the salad. For a cantaloupe dressing, you need 100 g of cleaned muskmelon that needs to be grated with a lemon grate in order to get purée from it. You then put white balsamic vinegar into the purée, water, a spoonful of sugar and honey and a pinch of salt. After the dressing, we move on to the preparation of the salad. For the salad, we need proschiutto, rocket, lamb’s lettuce, tomatoes, baby spinach and two to three balls of cantaloupe. When we mix it all together, the salad is ready to be served.

Photo: Thinkstock

To feed our need for sweets, chef Mislav Božić has also prepared a dessert.

- You can make various interesting desserts and sweets from the cantaloupe. The cantaloupe needs to be cleaned first, then thinly sliced, then covered with lemon and Sherry dressing with the addition of brown sugar and cardamom. It should sit in the fridge for two to three hours in order to let the flavors saturate each other.

Mali Raj restaurant in Brač is located near the idyllic beach of Bol, and its very name gives the visitor an idea of what’s to come. Specialties of Mediterranean cuisine, with emphasis on an amazing offer of fresh fish and other seafood, will amaze you with its simplicity, but also top-notch preparation. To get to the queen of summer refreshments, we reach for the sweet part of the menu. Chef de cuisine Marko Marinović is the designer of a reconstruction of the fruit cake, and in the summer edition of the cake, you can enjoy the cantaloupe flavor.

Photo: Thinkstock

- First we prepare the cream for this top class summer treat. The ingredients for the cream include egg yolks, half a liter of whipped cream, vanilla sugar, aromatic sugar with a vanilla pod, lime juice and orange juice. You mix all the ingredients for the cream and steam them. The pastry for the cake is a classical pastry with an addition of toasted ground almonds and nuts. When the pastry is cooled off, we break it and stack it at the bottom of the little cup, then we put cream and thinly sliced small cubes of cantaloupe, and we stack it until we fill up the cup. At the end, we grate a bit of lime skin on top of the dessert.

This tasteful,  true representative of the summer, in all its flavors and colors, will amaze you with its fullness, freshness, aesthetics and preparation possibilities, and it will surely charm all the guests of summer parties.