Before summer ended, my husband and I decided to host a last minute-party for our friends. We agreed that champagne (my favorite drink any time of the year) and rosé (his default wine of the season) would anchor the gathering along with appetizers made with the season’s fresh fruits and vegetables. While my spouse tended to the libations, I concentrated on the food.
The glorious produce and herbs that abound this time of year provided me with inspiration. Homemade aïoli served with haricots verts, heirloom cherry tomatoes, and sliced fennel was a colorful creation. An avocado pâté garnished with tomato salsa and chips, and a tray of cheeses and fresh figs were set out as well. Chicken wings seasoned with lime juice, apricot jam, and cilantro, plus mini-lobster rolls, and slices of cantaloupe marinated in a mint and Pernod syrup completed the offerings.
The latter was one of the most popular and definitely one of the easiest dishes. After the fourth person (including 3 men!) asked me how it was prepared, I thought I’d feature the vintage recipe here. It is prepared by marinating slices of cantaloupe in a sugar syrup infused with torn mint leaves and anise-scented Pernod. I discovered the recipe years ago while eating in Paris at L’Ambroisie, a celebrated 3-star Michelin restaurant. The chef shared the recipe, and I’ve been doing the same for more than 20 years!
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Melon with Pernod and Mint
3/4 cup sugar
34 cup fresh mint leaves, torn in half
1/4 cup Pernod (See note.)
2 large cantaloupes or 1 cantaloupe and 1 honey dew melon
Fresh mint sprigs and julienned mint for the garnish
1. Combine 2 cups water and the sugar in a heavy, medium saucepan set over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Then bring to a boil and boil 5 minutes without stirring. Remove from the heat.
2. Place the torn mint leaves in a medium mixing bowl and pour the warm sugar mixture over them. Let steep for 45 minutes. Then strain into a glass bowl, and discard the mint. Stir in the Pernod.
3. Halve (cutting though the stem ends) the melons and scrape out the seeds. Cut each half lengthwise into 8 wedges. Peel the wedges. Cut the wedges in half horizontally. Each melon will yield 32 wedges. Place the peeled melon slices in a shallow, glass or ceramic dish and pour the strained mint mixture over them. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 3 hours or better overnight, stirring several times.
4. To serve, skewer the melon wedges with 6-inch skewers. Arrange on a serving platter and garnish with fresh mint sprigs and some julienned mint. Makes 64 servings.
Note: Pernod is a French licorice-flavored liqueur that is available where wine and spirits are sold.
From First Impressions (1992 Morrow) by Betty Rosbottsom