Sicilian Melon Pudding

Yes, you read that right - Melon Pudding...

Made with local melons from Walchli Farms in Hermiston, Oregon. They're the largest melon grower in the Pacific Northwest - and I have to say, the absolute best melon I have ever tasted.

We heard about them from our friends, Bonnie and Nancy up in Washington. Their local farmer's market up there carries them for a short time each season, and they were raving about how good they are. I found them at our local New Seasons Market and headed over there, yesterday morning. New Seasons is an upscale grocer and can be a bit expensive, for things - but not nearly as expensive as Whole Foods and with a much better and friendly staff - so I just picked up a few things before heading up the road to the local WinCo - much more pocketbook friendly.

The melons were on special in their weekly flyer and I get a 10% veteran discount on Tuesdays - so it was about $11.50 for 2 large melons - about 9 1/2 pounds, total. I put the melons in the car and headed up the road. 20 minutes later, I came out of WinCo and opened the door. I was immediately hit with the strongest melon scent, ever.

Back in my produce-buying days,, a good melon was instantly noticeable by the rich melon scent and a bit of give at the stem end. One doesn't often find those characteristics in supermarket melons, anymore. For several years now, melons have been pretty hit-or-miss. Even when you've gotten a bit of a whiff of melon scent, they've often been mealy or just flat - lacking in that fruity summertime flavor.  I knew these were not going to disappoint.

I added the rest of the groceries - mostly junk food since we're doing a family camping trip this weekend over my Birthday - and drooled all the way home.

Into the house and the kitchen immediately lit up. These are some potent melons - and well worth the price.

The pudding recipe comes from a website called Jul's Kitchen - Stories and Recipes from Tuscany. There are some fun recipes there - and I like her style.

Gelo di Melone - Sicilian Melon Pudding

adapted from Juls Kitchen

  • 2 melons
  • 80 g sugar
  • 70 g corn starch
  • 4 tablespoons elderflower syrup


Cut the melon into wedges, remove the seeds, and then purée it in a blender. Pass it through a sieve placed over a bowl to eliminate the pulp. If you have a juicer, cut the melon into chunks and juice it, then pass the juice through a sieve into a bowl. You should get about 4 cups/1 lr of melon juice. Should you have any leftovers, save the juice for another use, or drink it cold with a squeeze of lime.

Add the sugar and the cornstarch to a saucepan.

Dilute them with 1 cup of melon juice. Add the rest of the melon juice and the elderflower syrup.

Bring it to a simmer on medium-low flame, stirring continuously. When you spot the first bubbles, cook for one more minute, then remove from the heat.

Pour the thickened melon juice into 4 1-cup pudding molds, or glasses, smooth the surface, and refrigerate until set.

I used a Ninja blender and did not have much pulp to strain - those suckers know how to blend!

And the final verdict is - it's eating the melon in pudding form! Smooth, creamy, soft, rich, flavorful... I'm running out of superlatives! It was that good!

It's a very easy recipe. You can use your favorite melon - and I highly recommend the Walchli if you can find it - or go for your favorite summer fruit. Just strain it to make it as pulp-free as possible. Obviously, the more fresh and ripe the fruit is, the better the flavor.

I see this as an annual summer treat.

Thanks, Bonnie and Nancy for the tip!

**edited to add: If you don't have Elderflower Syrup, just omit it. Or, add 4 tablespoons of a light cordial or something that will compliment the fruit. Don't not make it because of one simple ingredient.

Grilled Peaches and Pork Tenderloin

I have definitely been remiss in my postings...

It probably has more to do with the fact that I haven't really been cooking up anything very newsworthy. Let's face it - I've been writing this thing since 2005. There are 2016 posts and 1259 recipe pages. Needless to say, there's a lot of repetition in there. I suppose I could write about grilled pork chops again. And again. And again. Or... I can just post something when the mood strikes - like today.

I never monetized the site, I'm not trying to make a living from this and I'm not vying for Food Blogger of the Year. I do it because I like to - not because I have to. There's a big difference.

Besides, I'm retired. This is the time of life when I get to be old and crotchety and scream at kids to get off my lawn. Well, except that we don't have a lawn.

But that's beside the point.

What I will be posting more about is our vegetable garden once Summer hits and we have produce coming out our ears. Our niece, Christine, gave us a couple dozen starts of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants that she started from seed, We added blueberries, a lemon bush, lots of herbs, zucchini... They are growing like crazy and should eventually [hopefully] overwhelm us.

I can't wait for the panic of trying to figure out what to do with a dozen zucchini or five pounds of assorted peppers all at once!

It will be fun.

In the meantime, here's a bit of a start to the Grilling Season...

Grilled Pork Tenderloin and Grilled Peaches with Ricotta, Maple Syrup, and Candied Pecans. 

I did a quick marinade for the pork with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, fennel powder, and a bit of S&P. Onto the grill - no muss, no fuss.

The peaches had a drizzle of olive oil, a teeny-tiny bit of balsamic, and a teeny-tiny bit of brown sugar. Onto the grill and, when heated through, onto the plate with ricotta, a drizzle of maple syrup, and chopped candied pecans.

It was a sweet and savory dinner - the pork was delicious dipped into the maple glaze.

In the meantime, I just received a shipment from Anson Mills and I have a small bag of Blue Grits... I guess I'll have to write about them soon...


Italian Cherry Liqueur

Last week, after bottling our latest batch of Limoncello, our nephew remarked that we should make a batch with cherries - since we just seem to have a few of them...

Challenge, accepted!

We found a recipe online and with a couple of tweaks, Italian Cherry Liqueur has been started.

Started, because this is going to be a loooooong process.

The first step is soaking the cherries and sugar together for 2 weeks.

The second step is to add the vodka and let it steep for three months. THEN...

It's strained, bottled, and ages another three months.

This is going to be a Christmas Beverage!


Italian Cherry Liqueur

This is the first stage - the sugar and cherries. The recipe calls for using half of the pits, as well. I put them in cheesecloth, because we plan on using the cherries for Christmas Cookies!

Italian Cherry Liqueur

adapted from Italy Magazine

  • 2 kg cherries
  • 2 ltr 100 proof vodka
  • 750 g sugar

Cut and wash the cherries, discarding half the pits.

Place the remaining pits on a clean cloth and break with a hammer.

Combine the pieces of pits and cherries in a glass jar.

Cover fruit and pits with sugar and seal in container to age.

Shake fruit mixture several times during the first two weeks.

Add the alcohol and place mixture in a cool, dark area and set aside to macerate for three months.

Using a fine muslin bag or wire mesh strainer, pour aged mixture through cloth/mesh to strain.

Reserve filtered liquid, placing in a new bottle to age for three months or more.


Update September 26, 2021:

It's bottled!

Now... It sits for another few months!

Cranberry Pepper Jam

Cranberry Pepper Jam

I headed out this morning to see about putting the garden to bed for the season - and found another six pounds of peppers. The tomatoes were pretty bad this year - but the peppers just keep on giving!

Peppers from the Garden

It's rather amazing how many we've gotten. I really do love them, but I think I mentioned the lack of freezer space... what to do... what to do...

First step was to make a quick cranberry pepper jam. I had picked up a bag of cranberries, yesterday with no real plan for them other than something fairly savory - or to use with something savory. As soon as I came in with the peppers, I knew what to do!

Cranberry Pepper Jam

  • 12 oz bag cranberries
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • 4 hot peppers, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup Limoncello - optional
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • pinch salt & pepper

Lightly sauté onion, peppers, and garlic in a drizzle of oil. Add the sugar, water, and limoncello, if using, and bring to a boil. (You can add a bit of fresh citrus - orange, lemon, or lime in place of the limoncello to add a bit of freshness!)

Stir in cranberries and a pinch of salt & pepper.

Cook until it achieves a nice, thick consistency - about 10-12 minutes.

Cool and refrigerate.

I wanted a nice and spicy jam so I added for peppers - unseeded. Adjust the peppers to your own liking.

It came out really good. Not too sweet and just hot enough!

I think I'm going to see about frying the rest of the peppers and then canning them.

Wish me luck.



piel del sapo melon

Piel del Sapo Melon

I found a new melon at Gentile's, today - a Piel del Sapo - also known as a Santa Claus Melon! It's a casaba type melon and is a winter melon variety along with honeydew, Crenshaw, and Canary.

From Specialty Produce:

The melons resemble a small football-shaped watermelon. Its flesh is pale green to white in color and has a succulent texture with a mildly sweet flavor. The color of its hard shell will be varying shades of green and yellow depending upon variety. Typically the brighter the yellow of the melon rind, the riper and sweeter it is. Its exterior skin is wrinkled, a distinguishing feature of the Santa Claus melon. Its fragrance is subtle as a result of its thick skin. Unlike many other melons, it will not release a signifying aroma when ripe. The ripest Santa Claus melon will have a soft blossom end that yields to gentle pressure and its skin will be a vibrant yellow hue.

The Santa Claus melon is a casaba type, a variety of melon which is native to Turkey. It is cultivated in South America, Spain, Brazil and in America in California and Arizona. A variety of Santa Claus melon known as Piel de Sapo originated in Spain and on average the country produces 30,000 hectares of the melons annually. The Santa Claus melon thrives in warm climates and like many other winter melons takes longer to reach maturity than most melons, needing a full 110 frost free days on the vine.

In Spanish, Piel de Sapo translates to “skin of a toad”, a name which is reflective of the melons unique rind coloring and texture.

We have been eating a lot of fresh fruit this past month - with a lot of melons.  There's always a bowl of cut up fruit in the 'fridge, usually with a bit of white wine or prosecco drizzled on top. I made one bowl with just melons, and another with assorted fruits - one needs variety!

Variety for the fruit bowls was switching out the white wine for a sparkling grapefruit wine -

I picked it up on a whim months ago and it's been just sitting around waiting for a reason to be opened. I couldn't see actually drinking something like this, but it works on top of fruit!

Oh, and as an aside... we all know it's important to wash produce before eating it, but it's really important to wash melons before cutting them! Anything living on the outside of that melon will be carried right into the melon with the first knife cut.

Stay healthy, boys and girls!

fig sauce

Fresh Figs

Fresh figs have arrived - and my tummy is smiling! I picked up a small container of them, yesterday, with the sole intent of making a savory topping for steaks, tonight. I don't often impulse-buy something with a definite purpose, but I knew I had steaks in the 'fridge that were going to be tonight's dinner and figs and beef really go well together. It's amazing how menus create themselves.

We have pretty well-stocked vegetable bins - and tons of fresh herbs out back - so the fig topping pretty much came together on its own. I had a white onion out and then looked into the refrigerator and realized I had two full bunches of scallions - the white onion went back. There are also lots of leeks in there... I think I'll use them for tomorrow night...

In the meantime... measurements are estimates - I just kinda went for it!

Fig Sauce

  • 10 oz black mission figs
  • 1 bunch scallions
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh basil
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Chop figs. Chop scallions. Mince garlic. Combine in bowl with lime juice balsamic vinegar, olive oil, mint, and basil. Add S&P, to taste.

This was really good. It would be excellent as a bruschetta topping - or on top of a blue cheese burger.

Versatility, thy name is fig.

Have fun!

Pork Chops and Peaches

'Tis the season... Stone fruits - peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots - they're all starting to hit the stores. And I am psyched! I am a huge summer fruit fan. I know that most of this stuff - especially berries - are now available year-round, but I just don't like buying stuff out of season from halfway around the world. I'm a fan of buying in season - and buying frozen when it's not.

Frozen fruit gets a really bad rep, but... in these days of industrial farming and produce being grown for it's shipping characteristics, frozen is actually a good choice. Unlike it's non-local counterparts, it's picked at the height of ripeness and flash frozen. And they're less expensive in January than their southern hemisphere cousins.

But when the local produce starts coming into season... I'm ready!

Local peaches aren't quite ready, yet, but some really good ones are coming up just south of us. And the July issue of Cooking Light had a great idea for making a Pork Tenderloin with Bourbon Peach Sauce.

Their recipe was a bit more involved than my rendition.

Pork Chops with Bourbon Peach Sauce

  • pork chops
  • 2 cups sliced peaches
  • 1 tbsp aronia berry vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
  • 2 tbsp bourbon
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp butter

Saute pork chops in skillet until cooked through. Remove and set aside to keep warm.

Add peaches to skillet and cook until lightly cooked through. Add bourbon, vinegar, and maple syrup. Continue cooking until liquid is mostly evaporated.

Swirl in a tablespoon of butter.

Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper, as desired.

We had this with baked sweet potatoes - with bacon on top, just because - and steamed broccoli. Fun and flavorful - and easy enough for a weeknight meal.

Weeknight meal... by this time next week, every day is Saturday - and every night is Saturday Night.

Retirement is going to be so much fun!



Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Jam

I brought home a 4-pound package of strawberries. Four pounds. Like Victor and I could possibly eat four pounds of strawberries before they turned to mold. It was one of those I know I shouldn't do this but they look too good to pass up moments.

It wasn't exactly a rare occurrence - I'm often an impulse-food-shopper. It's what makes me creative in the kitchen because once it's purchased, it has to be used. There's no such thing as throwing food away in our house.

I think that strawberry jam started weaving its way into my psyche before I made it home because when I did get home, it was the first thing I decided to make.

Jams are really not difficult to make and since they're canned in a water-bath and not pressure canned, anyone can do it at home with pots already in the house.

They're also really easy to play with and make your own.

A fairly basic ratio is merely equal weights of sugar and fruit, along with some lemon juice and pectin, depending upon the type of fruit you're using. The recipe on the back of the pectin box will give you excellent results.

But you can play... I switched out half of my lemon juice for balsamic vinegar. Not enough to really change the flavor - but enough to go hmmmmm...

Peach brandy added to peach jam, prosecco added to grape jelly... It's yours. You get to play - or keep it simple.

Strawberry Jam

  • 3 lbs crushed strawberries
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp good balsamic vinegar
  • 1 pkg Pectin
  • 3 1/2 lbs granulated sugar

Prepare your jars - I used 6 pint jars.

Crush strawberries with a potato masher. Do not use a food processor as it breaks down the natural pectin.

Place in a heavy pot and stir in the pectin, lemon juice, and balsamic. Bring to a rolling boil.

Add sugar all at once, stir to dissolve, and bring back to a rolling boil - stirring often. Boil hard for one minute - keep stirring!

Fill your hot, prepared jars and process in a water bath for about 15 minutes.

And if you're a bit unsure about canning... here's a great sheet from the University of Georgia giving you the basics.

Have fun - and buy those berries!

pork chops

Pork Chops and Apples

Dinner was definitely going to be pork chops, tonight. I had taken them out of the freezer at 3:30 this morning before getting ready for work. I don't often figure out what I'm going to do with something until I'm getting ready to do it. The beauty of having a well-stocked larder is not having to think - and I'm usually not thinking at all at 3:30 ayem.

So off to work I went. I watched the produce come in and started thinking that the peaches were looking good. I grabbed a few. Needed some potatoes. Grabbed a bag. And then I looked at the wall of apples. The ol' mind started thinking of dinner - pork chops and apples - and a couple of fuji's went into my private stash basket. Yes, I will grab things before the store opens. It's one of the perks of working in a grocery store.

What to do with the apples came into being when I started dinner. Opening up the 'fridge, I grabbed leeks, green onions, bell pepper, a jalapeño, and those two apples.

I peeled the apples, cleaned the leeks, chopped the peppers, and went to work. I sauteed the leeks and peppers in some butter and when they were about half-cooked, I added the chopped apples. I cooked it all a bit and then added a splash of apple cider vinegar and almost the last of my Old St Augustine Minorcan Spice blend a buddy of mine brought me from Florida. There's just a tad left.

I cooked it all a bit and then added a hefty splash of pinot grigio and let it all cook together.

For a wing-it recipe, this one came out damned good! The apples were fully cooked but still had a crunch to them, the unseeded jalapeño added just enough heat, and the bell pepper and leek were perfect foils for the apple. I had sliced up some walnut raisin bread and it became a great bruschetta, too!

Great grilled pork chops - just salt and pepper on them - and roasted potatoes.

Another good one!



Banana Pound Cake Pudding

The problem with making desserts around here is there's only two of us eating them. There comes a point, once in a while, where something goes stale before we can finish it. I've pretty much stopped trying to freeze things, because... we keep running out of freezer space. If we had more freezer space, I would just fill it - I wouldn't stop making things. So... when something really good is starting to go stale, I think of ways to re-purpose it.

Like turning pound cake into a bread pudding.

A few ripe bananas and a couple of eggs made for a brand new dessert!

Banana Pound Cake Pudding

  • bananas
  • pound cake
  • eggs
  • sugar
  • milk
  • vanilla
  • chocolate chips
  • pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cube pound cake. Slice bananas. In bowl, mix eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla, and pinch of salt.

Add pound cake cubes, banana slices, and chocolate chips. mix carefully and pour into a buttered casserole.

Bake about 40 minutes or until set.

Really simple. Really tasty.


Fig and Onion Jam

We have friends from South Carolina stopping by, today. That means we have to cook.

We're doing a simple pasta, rolls... For dessert, Victor made a killer Almond Cake that I'll be writing about, later. But we needed something simple for an hors d'oeuvre.  bruschetta of sorts... Figs. Caramelized onions. Made into a jam.

Talked me into it!

It's a pretty basic concept... cook onions and figs with some sugar and balsamic. Basic concept, powerful taste!

Fig and Onion Jam

  • 2 lbs figs
  • 2 lbs onions
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup fig balsamic vinegar
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp salt

Thinly slice onions and place in large pot with butter and olive oil. Cook until they begin to color. Add 1 cup sugar and mix well.

Meanwhile, stem and halve figs. Add to the onions and mix well.

Add thyme, salt, and balsamic vinegar. Cook until thick.

Cool, jar, and refrigerate.

It's really good on toasted baguettes with a shaving of pecorino or your favorite cheese.

It's also great on top of a burger.

Or just with a fork out of the jar.

If you can get a hold of some fresh figs, make some, today. You will not be sorry.

Fig Tart

I just realized the danger of winging a recipe. Victor declared this tart to be one of the five best things I have ever made - and while I have a pretty good idea of what I did, I didn't measure or write anything down.

Curses, says I.

It was a bit of a clean-out-the-refrigerator idea. I had a pie crust made from Sunday, figs that needed using, some ricotta cheese that needed using, and a can of almond paste in the cabinet from Dubya's first term. Time to make a dessert, eh?!?

Making a tart was my first idea because I had that single pie crust, so I started rooting around for what to do. I didn't feel like making a pastry cream, I didn't want to blind-bake a tart shell. I wanted something really good and I was feeling really lazy. I grabbed the step stool and found the can of almond paste on the top shelf of the baking cabinet - back in the corner behind some Wilton Meringue Powder I think we brought from San Leandro.

The can was in good shape, no rust, no bulges, and when I opened it, it actually smelled like almond paste. Score one for the lazy guy.

I thought mixing it with cream cheese would be good for the base but we didn't have any - but we did have some ricotta left from when Victor made the eggplant rolatini. I thought some corn syrup might help pull it together, but I espied a jar of Lyle's Golden Syrup with a few drops remaining, and went for it, instead. I almost added an egg yolk, and then decided against it. Some vanilla went in. Then it almost got pistachios on top - because figs and pistachios go really well together - but pistachios and almonds?!? I forewent the nuts.

The end result was nothing short of miraculous.

Victor's first remark was that it reminded him of the holidays. We've done a lot of cookies and desserts with almond paste over the years so that makes sense. And it was light in texture and heavy on flavor. Not a bad combination.

So here are the measurements I think I used - and the ones I will use the next time I make this.

Fig Tart

  • pastry for single crust pie
  • 3/4 pound fresh figs
  • 1 8oz can almond paste
  • 3/4 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 3 tbsp Lyle's Golden Syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Roll out pastry to about a 13"-14" circle. Place on sheet pan - on parchment paper, if you have it.

Break up almond paste and slowly mix in the ricotta - making sure the almond paste is breaking up and mixing in. Add the vanilla and Golden syrup.

Spread the almond cream evenly over the crust leaving a 3" border all around.

Thickly slice the figs and place then atop the almond cream.

Fold the pastry up over the filling, crimping as you go along.

Bake in a preheated 400°F oven for about 45 minutes.

Cool and serve!

Give it a try. It may be one of the best five things you've ever made!