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

Amherst-Pelham Regional School District in Amherst, Mass., is updating its lunch debt policy to no longer single out students, MassLive reports.

Under the new policy, students with lunch debt will be given the same meals as their peers, regardless of how much they owe. School officials will also be communicating directly with parents of students who have accumulated debt instead of through the students themselves.

The updated policy comes just before U.S. school districts will be required to publicly list their lunch debt policies, per new USDA requirements starting July 1...

Menu Development
eureka

Since California’s state motto is “Eureka!” it seems fitting that a recent conversation with the director of hospitality at San Diego’s Palomar Health led to the biggest aha moment I’ve had in a long time.

I called Jim Metzger in late April with the purpose of discussing Palomar’s recent commitment to the goal of making 60% of its total menu plant-based by this summer. It seemed a lofty number, and I was curious how the public health system planned to get there.

But my personal eureka didn’t come while we were talking about how Palomar had cleaned up the impulse-buy zones...

Industry News & Opinion

Labeling foods with indulgent buzzwords such as “sweet sizzlin’” and “crispy” can lead consumers to make healthier food choices , according to a recent study out of Stanford University .

In the fall 2016 study, researchers labeled vegetables in one of the school’s dining halls using terms from four categories: basic, healthy restrictive, healthy positive or indulgent.

The green beans, for example, were listed as “green beans” for basic, “light ‘n’ low-carb green beans and shallots” for healthy restrictive, “healthy energy boosting green beans and shallots” for healthy...

Ideas and Innovation
sparkling water

Our carbonated soft drink sales at Earls.67 reflect a national trend; we’re continually down on carbonated soft drink sales by 8% to 9% on an annual basis,” says Cameron Bogue, beverage director at the contemporary-casual chain Earls Kitchen + Bar.

The issue with spa water

Many operators are intrigued with the offering, but they are learning that infused water can’t be offered at a cost to guests unless there is added value beyond cut-up fruit. Bogue says, “I was adamant that I didn’t want to charge for spa water.”

Agua fresca alternatives

At the original location of

...

FSD Resources