You might think he's doing something else. But in reality, he's learning how to sit/stay, and not doing a very good job of it (he eventually learned how to do so beautifully ... sort of ).

martedì 27 luglio 2010

Italian Melon

If you’re lucky enough to live in the United States, count your blessings and praise the Goddess that living where you do allows you access to variety, especially in the vegetable world, and lots of it.

Right now, I’m thinking about the melon in the world of said. The next time you’re in a supermarket, or farmer’s market, or a greengrocer’s, stroll down the vegetable aisle, make a mental note of the honeydew, and bask in anything else that follows. Think of your poor brethren in Italy.

Italy has two kinds of melon. Yup, just two. Watermelon and melone. We in the United States of America call it cantaloupe, either with or without the “e” (though I think we always go for the “e”).[1]. During Italian summers, when it’s always hot and you’re thinking FINLAND, meloni are omnipresent, especially when served with thin slices of prosciutto di Parma or di San Daniele. It constitutes a “light” meal for lunch, skipping the fact that ham is ham is ham (and how “lite” is that?). Doesn’t matter: we can all feel light and virtuous while eating this perfect marriage of sweet and savory, cholesterol be damned (speaking of sweet/savory, right now Casa del Vino in Florence serves perfectly ripe figs with salame toscano, and the planets are in harmony).

Italians are obsessed with eating “light” when it’s hot. For them, it mostly means eating stuff that’s cold. Do explain how a cold rice salad laden with cubes of ham and cheese can be considered “light.” Equally explain how any grain salad – i.e. farro – can be considered “light.”
It ain’t. Unless you go off to the beach or mountains (as many do) and sweat/swim it off (unclear to me what one does while in the mountains, but one can imagine sweat is involved), you hold those carbs as close to your heart as you do tortellini in brodo (preferably eaten in Bologna in the fall).

According to, you can spell it “cantaloup,” or refer to it as muskmelon, rockmelon, or spanspek (this must be what they call it in Stuttgart). North America has one variety, Europe another. Supposedly Christopher Columbus brought cantaloup(e) to the New World on his second voyage to said. (A sop, perhaps, for introducing syphilis to Native Americans.) Again, thus spake Wiki, Burpee introduced the “Netted Gem” (sounds almost pornographic, no?) in 1881. From there, our love – if such this can be called with something that grows with difficulty along large parts of garden tract – was born. says that the word comes from the (French) word “cantaloupe” … well, and then … who knows? It might come from a papal villa near Rome (from the Italian cantalupo, the name of a supposed villa near Rome)(rot, say I. Were this so, “cantalupo” would be in our lexicon much as “zucchini” is (the plural of the singular “zucchino”).

This recipe comes, more or less, as a memory from a long-dead (sadly) wine bar in Florence called Enoteca Baldovino.[2] It’s Rebs’s recipe; Rebecca, weaned in Denmark, has a Canadian mother, and found a recipe (loosely resembling this) in a Danish vegetarian cookbook many, many moons ago. It may sound strange. It doesn’t look or taste that way.

I’d like to introduce you to Bobo who, from time to time, will pair wines with recipes. Bobo is Florentine, a sommelier, and an ace cook. She has exquisite taste.

Rebs’s Melon Salad

1 ripe cantaloupe/e, muskmelon, rockmelon, spanset, aka “melon,” rinds/seeds removed, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 red pepper, seeded, and cut into pieces resembling the “melon”
½ lb. feta, soaked in water for at least 10 minutes, drained, then crumbled
1 c. black olives, pitted and minced
2 T. extravirgin olive oil
1 T. best-quality red-wine vinegar
Freshly snipped chives
A handful of freshly chopped mint
One cayenne pepper, minced (optional)

Throw the first four ingredients into a salad bowl, mix the olive oil and vinegar together, pour over said, add the fresh chopped/snipped herbs, cayenne if using, toss, and serve.

Bobo suggests washing this down with a fine Sauvignon Colli Orientali del Friuli d.o.c. Livio Felluga 2009.

Casa del Vino, via dell’Ariento 16/r, Florence, 055/215 609.
Baldovino, via San Giuseppe 22/r, Florence, 055/241 773.
Baldobar just next door to Baldovino.

[1] And who knows why.
[2] Do know that its flagship restaurant, Baldovino, thrives still, and is well worth a visit. In the past couple of months, David Gardner (proprietor) has been written up in both the Financial Times and the New York Times (synchronicity, one should think). David and his charming wife Catherine have recently opened Baldobar, a lovely wine bar featuring Spanish/French wines and food, the subject of an imminent blog.

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