The other day I solved a major summertime problem: what to do with leftover lopes. Now when cantaloupe excess strikes, I make ice cream. Cantaloupe overload is often a problem for me. When I go to a farmer's market, I fall victim to the melons' sweet perfume.
They smell so good. Instead of buying one lope, which would make a nice breakfast, or two lopes, which would keep me in melon balls for a week, I end up buying three. There is always a special price for a trio, three for $4. So it seems like a bargain.
I end up with a kitchen full of cantaloupe. At first their aroma strikes me as wonderful and rich. But as the fruit ripens, their smell gets stronger and the appeal fades.
For me, the eau de cantaloupe is like a whiff of perfume or splash of cologne. At first it is enticing, but after sniffing it for four days, you want it out of your life.
Usually, when the odor has reached such overpowering levels, conditions are ripe for the onset of creeping cantaloupism. This is a condition in which no dish, however scared, is safe from being invaded by the omnipresent orange fruit. Cantaloupe balls are found lurking in the salad, floating in the cold soup. Hunks show up as a garnish for peanut butter sandwiches. And endless slices of the fruit provide a nesting spot for innumerable scoops of canned tuna fish.
Not long ago I had put cantaloupe on everything short of my breakfast toast, yet still had a whole melon left over.
To get the lope out of sight, I cut away the rind and put the soft flesh in a secure plastic container. The container had a lid on it, to prevent the smell or cantaloupe parts from escaping and slinking into yet another meal.
The cantaloupe sat in the fridge for two days, its juices growing stronger. I freed it from the fridge, only because I couldn't find any peaches.
I wanted the peaches to make homemade peach ice cream. My mentors in this undertaking, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, authors of "Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book" ($8, Workman Publishing), had suggested using overripe, small peaches. The riper the fruit, the better the flavor, they said.
Earlier in the week I had such peaches. I had bought them at the Sunday morning open-air market in downtown Baltimore. But those peaches were now long gone, and the replacement peaches I saw in the supermarket were big and green.
It was then that I thought of the leftover lope. Maybe it could substitute for peaches.
Sure enough, the Ben and Jerry's book had a recipe for cantaloupe ice cream. Moreover, it called for soft cantaloupe, and after sitting around for a week, mine was as mushy as a senator's midsection. So I pulled out my ice cream maker and churned out a batch of cantaloupe ice cream. It was sensational. Not only did I think so, but a whole party full of folks lapped it up.
The ice cream tasted creamy, which it should since there were two cups of whipping cream in the recipe along with a little half and half. But the key ingredient was the leftover lope.
After finishing off a bowlful not only did I want more ice cream, I was once again feeling kindly toward lopes.
Cantaloupe ice cream
Makes 1 quart.
1 large or 2 small, very ripe cantaloupes
juice of 1 lemon
sweet cream base (see below)
Cut the cantaloupe in half and clean out the seeds. Scoop fruit into a mixing bowl, add the lemon juice and mash until the fruit is pureed. Drain the juice into another bowl and reserve. Cover the melon puree and refrigerate.
Prepare the sweet cream base and whisk in fruit juice.
Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer's instructions.
After the ice cream stiffens (about 2 minutes before it is done), add the cantaloupe. If more juice has accumulated, do not pour it in because it will water down the ice cream. Continue freezing until the ice cream is ready.
Sweet cream base
2 cups heavy or whipping cream
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup half and half
Pour the cream into a mixing bowl. Whisk in sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. Pour in half and half and whisk to blend.