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Food

A melon dessert as intoxicating as the fruit

Ripe melons are made into a rosewater-tinged granita, then served over more melons with pistachios and edible flowers.
Fragrant, ripe melons are blended into a rosewater-tinged granita, then served over more melons with pistachios and edible flowers. Prop styling by Nidia Cueva.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

That aroma is unmistakable. When you’re walking through the outdoor markets — or even the frigid produce section at supermarkets — and you smell that swirl of floral, sweet melon. No matter the type, it hits your nose and that’s all you want.

Often melon can bring up negative connotations of bad, sad fruit salads and edible arrangements. But in late summer, when at its peak, it’s the only fruit I want to eat. Yes, watermelon counts and is delicious, but I’m talking about cantaloupes, honeydews and, my favorite, the Charentais — all melons with a dense, buttery flesh and an odor reminiscent of a papaya with a spritz of Jo Malone London’s red roses cologne.

Halved Charentais, cantaloupe and sugar kiss melons.
A mix of Charentais, cantaloupe and sugar kiss melons. Prop styling by Nidia Cueva.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Weiser Farms’ melons are the ones I seek out when I’m at the Santa Monica or Hollywood farmers markets (I also enjoy the selection at Cookbook, the specialty food store with locations in Echo Park and Highland Park), but honestly, all melons are good this time of year. And when they’re this good, you only want to eat them raw, chilled from the fridge for an icy, refreshing snack or at room temperature, swaddled in paper-thin slices of prosciutto or speck.

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But I see your unadulterated melon and raise you this: a snowy landscape of melon granita — lightly sweetened, spiked with a splash of lime juice, and scented with rosewater — toppling over large, spoon-made chunks of more melon, all sprinkled with toasted pistachios and decorated with edible flowers. The rosewater highlights the melon’s floral quality while the pistachios further plant it in the Middle Eastern dessert canon. Edible flowers gild the lily. You might think “this is a bit much,” but this time every summer, that aroma takes over and you must succumb to the fantastical mood it brings with it.

Melons and rosewater-scented melon granita.
A scoop of melons and rosewater-scented melon granita makes the perfect no-cook dessert for summer. Prop styling by Nidia Cueva.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Mixed Melons With Rosewater Granita and Pistachios

15 minutes, plus 4 hours freezing time. Serves 8.

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This dessert is as simple as it gets. There’s no cooking involved, just some patient freezing time to get the granita to the proper consistency. If you don’t like rosewater, you can leave it out, but do use vanilla extract in its place (orange blossom water also complements the melons well, if that’s more your speed).

  • 2 ripe cantaloupe, honeydew or Charentais melons, rinds removed, halved, and seeds removed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon rosewater (or orange blossom water)
  • Chopped, toasted pistachios and edible flowers, to garnish

Using a spoon, dig out bite-size chunks from both melons and let them fall into a bowl; discard the rinds. Weigh out 1 3/4 pounds chunks (about one quarter of the flesh) and place in a blender with the sugar, lime juice, salt and rosewater; place the remaining chunks in a bowl, cover with plastic and refrigerate until ready to use. Blend on high until the sugar dissolves and the purée is super smooth, at least 1 minute.

Pour the melon purée into a shallow glass dish and place in the freezer. Let the purée freeze for 1 hour, then stir with a fork to break up any frozen chunks, redistributing them in the purée. Repeat, stirring the purée every hour until it forms an icy granita, about 4 hours total. (You can do this a day ahead of time if you like.) Several minutes before you plan to serve the granita, place a large platter with a rim in the freezer or refrigerator to chill.

When ready to serve, arrange the chilled melon chunks on the chilled platter so they sit in more or less an even layer. Quickly spoon the granita all over the melon (use as much as you like and save the rest in the freezer), then sprinkle with some pistachios and edible flowers. Serve the granita at once, family-style, so people can spoon it into glasses or dig in with spoons directly from the platter.


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