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Keep cool with 9 great melon recipes

Keep cool with 9 great melon recipes
Recipe: Watermelon with mint and lime (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Watermelon with mint and lime: Rather than slicing it into wedges, chop the watermelon into bite-size cubes and toss with a little fresh mint and lime juice, along with a touch of olive oil for richness, and chill. You can't beat the refreshing flavors.

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Curried cantaloupe slaw: It may sound a bit unusual at first, but the right fruit can make a wonderful slaw, particularly in the summer. Melons are a perfect example. When they're ripe, cantaloupes are rich and sweet and meltingly soft; slightly underripe, cantaloupes are more delicately flavored with firmer flesh -- perfect for slaw. Base the dressing for this slaw on yogurt, a tangy and more refreshing alternative to mayonnaise, which would only flatten the flavor. Season the dressing with a dash of curry powder. It takes only a very small amount to emphasize the savory aspects of the flavor.

Watermelon and feta salad with cumin-lime dressing: From Russ Parsons, who writes that "what really makes the dish work is the flavor pairing of power with power. The watermelon is so explosively juicy and sweet that you can add all kinds of big tastes -- not just salty feta but also jalapeños! toasted cumin! lime! fresh mint! -- without overwhelming it. In this watermelon salad, the whole is even greater than the sum of its parts, no matter how large they might be."

Smoked chicken and cantaloupe salad: Arugula, shredded smoked or rotisserie chicken (use leftovers, or go for one of the pre-cooked chickens at the grocery store on your way home) and cubes of cantaloupe are tossed with a quick vinaigrette, making for a dish full of color, texture and great flavor -- all in 20 minutes.

Grilled watermelon: If you've never tried grilled watermelon, it's pretty amazing. Cut thick wedges from a watermelon (seedless -- this isn't meant to be sadistic), brush them with a little olive oil and grill the wedges until lightly toasted with defined grill marks on each side. Somehow the grilling enhances the flavors, concentrating them while muting the sweetness and adding a little smokiness. Top the whole thing with a dollop of Greek yogurt, fresh lime juice, mint and a drizzle of honey.

The Hungry Cat's tomato and watermelon salad: Take everything you love about summer and arrange it beautifully on a plate. Juicy heirloom tomato wedges and bright chunks of cool watermelon come together perfectly, punctuated with the spice of arugula, fresh basil and mint.

Cherry and apricot fruit salad: Showcase some of summer's best fruits with this colorful cherry, apricot and honeydew salad. Marinate the fruit with Muscat wine, sugar, lemon and lime juices, and fresh basil, then cover and chill until ready to serve.

Watermelon cooler: Now you can have your watermelon and drink it too. For this cocktail, combine watermelon puree, simple syrup, a touch of fresh lemon juice and a shot of tequila, if desired. Top with ice and club soda and garnish with fresh watermelon balls.

Tierra Sur's heirloom melon gazpacho: Chef Todd Aarons was happy to share his recipe for this light, refreshing soup, perfect for this time of the year. He suggests using heirloom melons from the farmers market, such as those from Weiser Family Farms. He particularly likes their Sugar Queen, Butterscotch or Ogen melons. Aarons also suggests using slightly underripe melons, because you don't want the soup to be too sweet. You can find the recipe below.

TIERRA SUR'S HEIRLOOM MELON GAZPACHO

Total time: 30 minutes, plus chilling time | Serves 4 to 6
Note: Adapted from chef Todd Aarons at Tierra Sur in Oxnard.

2 cups cubed French baguette or batard, all crusts removed, and cut into small cubes (about 1 baguette), divided

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white wine, Champagne or sherry vinegar

4 cups cubed, peeled and seeded melons (preferably heirloom, such as Sugar Queen, Butterscotch, Ogen, Ananas)

1/4 cup diced red onion

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra oil for frying the croutons

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3 dried bay leaves, ground to a powder

Sea salt

1/2 cup ice cubes, or as needed

Smoked paprika

1. In a bowl, soak 1 1/2 cups cubed bread in the vinegar.

2. Meanwhile, using a blender or food processor, puree the melons and red onion. Add the soaked bread and vinegar to the food processor and puree until completely smooth.

3. With the motor running, slowly add the one-fourth cup olive oil, then the ground bay leaves. Taste, and adjust the seasoning with salt.

4. If the soup is overly thick, add a few ice cubes and puree until the desired consistency is achieved. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and vinegar.

5. Transfer the soup to a nonreactive metal bowl and chill before serving. This makes about 4 cups soup.

6. While the soup is chilling, fry the garnish. Pan-fry the remaining cubes of bread in a hot skillet with a little olive oil until evenly toasted and golden brown. Season to taste with a light sprinkling of salt.

7. Serve the soup, garnished with a few croutons and a sprinkling of paprika.

Each of 6 servings: 145 calories; 2 grams protein; 14 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 10 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 7 grams sugar; 93 mg. sodium.

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