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

The USDA analyzed the efficacy of using Medicaid data to certify students for free or reduced-price lunch, a provision included in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Participating states and districts reported conflicting data on changes in the percentage of students certified, number of meals served, federal reimbursements and certification costs.

The method is used as an alternative to household applications and data matching with other public benefit programs to streamline the certification of more low-income students. The program was first piloted statewide in Kentucky...

Ideas and Innovation
kids students cafeteria line

While summer feeding programs are commonplace in school districts across the country, foodservice operators still struggle to get the word out and kids in.

Many districts are scaling back or discontinuing their summer feeding programs due to low participation, citing staffing costs and other issues that make it difficult to break even and provide a profitable program.

“We need to find a way to encourage that participation,” Tom Freitas—foodservice director for Traverse City Area Public Schools in Traverse City, Mich.—told Record Eagle News . “We are open to ideas as long as...

Industry News & Opinion

Students and union representatives are petitioning Eastern Michigan University’s plan to outsource its foodservice operations, calling for the school to delay such a move to allow for further discussion with stakeholders, MLive reports .

EMU last week announced a tentative agreement to hand over its residential, catering and retail foodservices to Chartwells, a deal the university’s interim president avered would enable the school to expand and upgrade its eateries while maintaining high food quality, MLive says.

Opponents of the plan say they are concerned about what they...

Sponsored Content
whole grain pasta foodservice menu

From Barilla.

With younger consumers eager to explore new flavors and better-for-you options, whole-grain pasta is winning greater acceptance in American diets.

As more and more college and university students seek out whole grains in their meals, dishes featuring whole grains are on-deck to become menu mainstays.

At the University of Iowa, whole-grain foods have won general acceptance, says Barry Greenberg, executive chef for university dining. Two marketplace dining facilities on campus offer whole-grain pasta as a regular option and incorporate it into baked...

FSD Resources