Doing more with melons

Operators struggle against seasonality and availability when satisfying high demand for melons.

Published in FSD Update

By 
Lindsey Ramsey, Contributing Editor

Be it sweet watermelon, classic cantaloupe or humble honeydew, non-commercial operators know seasonality rules when menuing melons. Lucky operators like Eric Ernest, executive chef for USC Hospitality at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, can—and do—take advantage of local melons grown year-round. But it’s not just melons’ availability that makes them one of Ernest’s favorite fruits to work with.

“Melons are very versatile—from traditional fruit trays to compressing it—and the fruit’s flavor really lends itself to a wide range of dishes,” Ernest says. “Other fruits you can only do so much with, but with melons, the options are endless. Melons work well with sweet, salty, spicy and vinegary flavors. It’s not necessarily common to have something that’s so good on its own that also pairs so well with so many different flavors.”

Ernest’s department has done some innovative things with melons, such as using compressed versions in dishes for special events. To compress fruits such as watermelons, they are placed in a vacuum bag and all the air is removed. Ernest says the process essentially breaks the cell structure of the melon to create more flavor in less space.

“The watermelon comes out looking like a piece of raw tuna,” Ernest says. For one dish that featured this application, watermelon was infused with a bit of orange blossom honey, Thai basil vinegar and fresh basil and then compressed in a vacuum sealer. The compressed melon was served with marinated mozzarella, some shaved radish and a balsamic reduction.

Beyond compressing melons, USC Hospitality offers a number of items with melons, including melon and prosciutto plates and fruit soups.

“We make fruit stocks with puréed melons and melon trimmings,” Ernest says. “We add some simple syrup or citrus juices to make those into fruit soups, which are a really refreshing addition to a dessert buffet or as a part of a dessert duo.” USC also makes a gazpacho where watermelon is used in place of tomato. Cucumbers, beets, celery, coriander, cumin, olive oil and fresh bread, for thickening, join watermelon in the soup, which is served with a rice-crusted scallop. A spicy version is also made with serrano or habanero chilies.

Beyond watermelon, USC also offers compressed Tuscan melons, which are marinated in a light elderberry syrup and served with a lime pickle and citrus caviar. The department also used the same Tuscan melon to garnish a mushroom carpaccio.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

After shutting down 265 schools due to ongoing wildfires, the Los Angeles Unified School District kept three schools open on Friday and Saturday to provide meals for students and their families, the Los Angeles Times reports.

At one of the schools, employees and volunteers handed out around 100 meals on Friday and 270 meals on Saturday. The meals included items such as dragonfruit punch, raisins, bananas, sunflower kernels, whole-grain cinnamon graham crackers, sunflower seed butter and fat-free chocolate milk.

Around 80% of students in the district come from low-income...

Sponsored Content
Breakfast chili

From Bush’s Best®.

While decadent plates of French toast and pancakes stacked high will always be breakfast favorites, it’s undeniable that savory breakfast items are on the rise in many foodservice operations. Menu items such as avocado toast and omelets aren’t new, of course, but consumers’ preferences for better-for-you food choices, along with their desire for global flavors, are driving this trend.

According to a recent Technomic Breakfast report, consumer demand for vegetarian ingredients has led to an increase of ingredients like soy, tofu, beans, lentils, seeds,...

Industry News & Opinion

Industry veteran Joseph Fassler, 75, passed away on Dec. 1 after fighting cancer.

Dedicating over 50 years to foodservice, Fassler was the former president and CEO of Phoenix-based Restaura Inc., as well as a former chair of the National Restaurant Association and its Educational Foundation . In addition, he served on the advisory board for Northern Arizona University’s School of Hotel and Restaurant Management, and on the board of Oklahoma State University’s College of Human Environmental Sciences.

Fassler was given numerous awards throughout his career, including IFMA’s...

Industry News & Opinion

New York’s Department of Labor is seeking to overhaul the pay rules for foodservice employees and other workers whose job schedules might be tweaked at the last minute.

The proposals are a twist on the predictable-schedule laws that have been cropping up across the country. New York’s suggested rule changes look to protect call-in employees, or staff members who essentially are on standby to come into work if a shift is particularly busy. Although that setup is more of a convention in retailing, many restaurants also use that model, particularly during holiday seasons or on busy...

FSD Resources