Having a ball with melons
The finished product, insalata tricolore prepared by Jens Bauerle and Mary Rose Gearon of Gourmet Destinations. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
(From Mary Rose Gearon)
4 medium-sized fresh fennel bulbs ¼ pound salted ricotta ¼ of one medium-sized watermelon Fresh basil, to taste 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil Salt, to taste
¼ pound salted ricotta
¼ of one medium-sized watermelon
Fresh basil, to taste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
Put all ingredients into shallow bowl, sprinkle with plenty of fresh basil, a pinch of salt, balsamic vinegar and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
Chill slightly and serve.
Updated: August 24, 2012 11:36AM
Julia Child is known for raising the bar on mingling unexpected flavors with summer’s most glorious bounty. One example, the Thai Melon Salad she introduced through her “Cooking with Master Chefs” TV series, launched a melon revolution.
The recipe combines watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe with kaffir lime leaves, cilantro, peanuts — even fish sauce. “Whether they acknowledge it or not, all chefs, within the past 50 years, were influenced by her in one way or another,” said Michael Lachowicz, chef/owner of Restaurant Michael in Winnetka.
Child’s impact on Lachowicz is well-known, and he is lifting a glass to the culinary icon as part of Julia Child Restaurant Week, a festival organized by the Chicago Originals group.
Lachowicz and other participating chefs are offering Julia Child-themed menus through Aug. 25. The festival began on Aug. 15, which would have been Child’s 100th birthday. Nieto’s in Highland Park and Oceanique in Evanston are two other participating suburban restaurants.
For his Julia birthday dinner, Lachowicz is incorporating an intermezzo of melon soup served around a scoop of melon sorbet. The melon course breaks up the flavors between the appetizer (scallops) and entrée (coq au vin) courses.
In the sorbet, melons are accented with mint and honey. Cilantro, more mint, sea salt and serrano chili peppers flavor the melon soup.
“That combination is explosive; it kind of confuses and soothes your palate at the same time,” Lachowicz said.
Meanwhile, Evanston resident Mary Rose Gearon has developed a watermelon salad this summer that is flavored with salted ricotta cheese, basil and fennel. She calls it Insalata Tricolore.
The salad is accented with the type of Mediterranean flavors she and her husband, Jens Bauerle, encounter with the tour groups they escort on culinary visits to Italy with their company, Gourmet Destinations.
“Watermelon evokes a beautiful summer day,” Gearon said. “The fennel and the nice, nutty flavor of the ricotta cheese work well with watermelon.”
Gearon emphasized that the salad should be eaten fresh. “Chill the salad for no more than 15 minutes,” she said. “If you are going to keep it in the refrigerator, you don’t want the ingredients to soak up all of the oil and dressing. Put the basil and dressing on right before serving it.”
On Sept. 30, Gourmet Destinations will launch a new tour to the birthplace of the slow food movement — Piedmont, Italy. For information, visit www.GourmetDestinations.com. To learn more about Julia Child Restaurant Week, visit www.chicagooriginals.com/juliachild.php.