Roasting Cantaloupe, Grown-Up Mac and Cheese and a Shrimp Bisque

MONDAY & TUESDAY

Intro Collage

 

Yesterday, the alarm went off at 3:45am…a car was coming to pick Michael up at 5am and take him to the airport for the first flight to LA.  Usually, I can crawl back under the covers and get another hour of sleep before the day begins but that was not the case this morning.  I made my way into the kitchen for a cup of coffee  and, as I sat in the living room listening to the cacophony of fog horns streaming over the Bay, I stared at my computer across the room.  There was work to be done, a post on the evening prior’s dinner but the stillness of the moment was too compelling. Although it was still dark, the the blaring horns forewarned of fog.  By the time the children awoke, fog was pouring in from the Golden Gate under dark gray skies and a light mist.  This view from my window did not change much for the rest of the day…

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Returning home, after school drop off, I was once again persuaded by the quiet to pause for a moment.  Doors, usually opened first thing in the morning letting in the fresh air and sounds of the Bay, remained shut.  The morning light silenced the drone of the foghorns and I found myself amidst utter silence.  It was peaceful.  It was beautiful.

Life gets so loud sometimes…phones, computers, traffic…and this day, I decided, was my chance to step off the “grid” and just “be”.  The computer remained off for the rest of the day.  Email remained unread and, other than the children and Michael, phone calls were handled by voicemail.  Just me and my thoughts swimming in silence.  I spent the day, happily, in the kitchen…no music, no podcasts…just quiet.  As I worked, I noticed colors and smells with renewed attention.  In the absence of juggling phone calls and emails in between chopping vegetables and simmering sauces I felt less hurried..relaxed. Even after picking up the children from school, the phone and computer remained out of sight, enjoying their company free from interruption.  I ended the day in much the same way as it began.  Holding a cup of tea, I sat in the living room in silence.  Children were in bed and the only light in the room was from the flickering lights across the Bay.  After spending the day with me, I felt peaceful, grateful,and happy.  It was a beautiful day.

And now, I need to catch you up on what I have been doing.  Let’s start with roasting cantaloupe.  I am not blazing new trails when I say that roasting most fruits and vegetables intensifies their flavor, caramelizing the sugars naturally found in the food itself, but I have never before roasted melon.  Coming across this article at Food52 last week provided me with the opportunity to try roasted melon in two very different ways…one, cold and sweet, the other, warm and savory.

Monday was filled with sunshine and temperatures hit the 90°F mark.  Popsicles would make the perfect after-school treat for the kids.  I prepared and roasted the cantaloupe in the morning while it was still cool outside

Melon Collage

And, in less than fifteen minutes, the cantaloupe was done…

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Following a cooling period and a brief spin in the food processor, the melon purée was combined with just few other ingredients and poured into molds.

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After school, the final product received rave reviews.  Cold and sweet but still prominent was the refreshing taste of melon…

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Creamy Roasted Cantaloupe Popsicles {adapted from Tasting Table.com}

  • 1 large, ripe cantaloupe ~ peeled, halved and seeded
  • ¾ cup sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Slice each cantaloupe half into three thick circles and place the cantaloupe rounds on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast the cantaloupe until the edges begin to brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Set the roasted cantaloupe pieces aside to cool completely, about 45 minutes.
  2. Chop the cooled roasted cantaloupe and add it to a food processor or blender. Purée until smooth, about 30 seconds, then pour the purée into a large measuring cup.
  3. To the purée, stir in the condensed milk, whole milk and lemon juice. Divide the mixture evenly among the holes of a 10-pop mold and freeze until the mixture is hard, at least 5 hours. Briefly run the bottom of the mold under warm water to loosen the pops. Remove them from the mold and serve.

 

While the children enjoyed popsicles as a late-afternoon snack, I had little to do to get dinner underway.  The leftovers from the roast chicken we enjoyed for dinner Sunday evening provided the meat for Monday’s dinner.

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All that remained was chopping a few herbs, heating up some cream…

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Stirring in a “bit” of goat cheese…

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And, finally, preparing the pasta.

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The final dish was pure comfort food!  The tanginess of the goat cheese was well complimented by the sweet cream.  The herbs, rosemary chopped and added  directly to the cheese sauce, together with the lingering taste of thyme from the roast chicken provided an earthiness that tied all the ingredients together.  A tomato, picked from the garden and sliced, finished this simple but satisfying meal.

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Mac and Cheese with Roasted Chicken and Goat Cheese {adapted from My Baking Addiction}

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound dried rigatoni
  • 1 quart heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and pushed through a garlic press
  • 10-12 ounces herbed goat cheese {depending on how cheesy you want the finished pasta to be}
  • 2 cups shredded roasted chicken
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a rapid boil. Add the olive oil and the rigatoni to the water and cook according to the directions on the package, 10-12 minutes.
  2. While you are waiting for the water to boil, pour the cream into a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the rosemary and garlic to the cream and bring it to a simmer – take care not to let it boil over. Allow the cream to reduce by about half.
  3. Stir in the goat cheese and chicken and continue cooking cooking it till the cream coats the back of a spoon.
  4. Thoroughly drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the sauce. Coat the pasta in the sauce and simmer over low heat for a few minutes. Serve hot.

 

Roasted Cantaloupe, Part II, was yesterday’s project and a bit more involved than Monday’s endeavor, I must say.  With clouds and mist {see the photo above}, I couldn’t have planned a better day for a soup dinner.  My decision to take the day “off” turned out to be a wise one as I soon discovered.  Although nothing about the recipe is hard, I would definitely not classify this as an ideal weeknight meal.  With that being said, the time and effort is well rewarded with a soup that is ever-so-rich and creamy…luxurious and worthy of a special occasion.

I played with the original recipe for this dish a bit.  First, I decided not to toss the melon with sugar prior to roasting.  I knew from making the popsicles that the roasted melon was very sweet and eliminating extra sugar is always a good thing.

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Secondly, I used shrimp that was already peeled and de-veined {with tails still on} not because of convenience but that is what was available at my local market.

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Now, I must admit, having the shrimp already peeled and de-veined saves a bit of time but it proposed a bit of a problem when making the stock for the soup.  You see, the shells from the shrimp add so much flavor when roasted with the vegetables for the stock.  Now, I had the tails to add but I knew that I wanted to get as much flavor from the shrimp as possible so…

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Yes, you guessed it…ROASTING was my answer.  If roasting the melon would intensify the fruit’s flavor I knew {courtesy of a tip from Ina Garten via the Kitchn} that roasting the shrimp would have a similar effect.  Tossing the shrimp in a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper resulted in super flavorful shrimp that was perfectly cooked.

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The key components of the stock…

stock Collage

Gently simmered for a while in some wine and homemade chicken stock to create a wonderfully rich broth to which was added this beautiful melon purée…

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The final additions of cream, vinegar, chopped shrimp and spices make this soup absolutely wonderful!  I served the bisque with these herbed popovers and a tabbouleh that I purchased from our local market for a special weeknight treat.

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Roasted Cantaloupe & Shrimp Bisque {adapted from Food52}

  • 1 large cantaloupe (about 5 lbs), peeled, halved and seeded
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 5 thick-cut slices bacon
  • 2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and de-veined with tails on
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 fennel bulb, bulb chopped and fronds set aside
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 quart chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • a pinch of cayenne
  • a pinch of ground allspice
  • 1½ teaspoons chopped fennel fronds*, plus additional for garnish
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Slice each cantaloupe half into three thick circles and place the cantaloupe rounds on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast the cantaloupe until the edges begin to brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven {keeping the heat on in the oven} and set the roasted cantaloupe pieces aside to cool, about 10 minutes.  Remove cantaloupe to a food processor and set aside.  Wipe baking sheet clean, cover with a fresh piece of parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Remove tails from the shrimp and set the tails aside. Toss the shrimp with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread shrimp, in a single layer, onto the prepared baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 10 minutes or until shrimp is cooked through {evenly pink in color}.  Remove pan from oven and allow shrimp to cool for about 10 minutes.  Divide shrimp evenly between tow plates and set aside.
  3. Prep your onion, fennel bulb, and garlic. Keep the garlic separate from the onion and fennel. Chop the fennel fronds and set aside.
  4. Cut bacon crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Heat along with the olive oil in a dutch oven or large stock pot over medium heat, stirring frequently to promote even cooking. Once cooked, remove the bacon to a small dish, leaving the fat in the pot.
  5. Add the onion and fennel to the pot. Stir frequently, scraping the bottom. As the veggies release their liquid you will be able to scrape the yummy brown bits up. While the veggies are cooking, coarsely chop half of the shrimp and set aside. After the veggies are soft and translucent (about 5 minutes), stir in the garlic and the shrimp tails. Stir continuously for about 2 minutes or until garlic is fragrant. Add the flour and stir for another minute or so, until no bits of dry flour are visible. Add the bacon, whole cooked shrimp, wine, and chicken stock to the pan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then cover and lower heat to maintain a simmer. Cook about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Strain the soup through a fine mesh strainer. Push on the solids with a wooden spoon to obtain as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids. Wash and dry the Dutch oven.
  7. Transfer a cup or so of the liquid to the food processor with the roasted cantaloupe. Process for 1-2 minutes, until smooth and no chunks of cantaloupe remain. Transfer the cantaloupe mixture and the remaining soup to the clean Dutch oven. Stir in the cream, cayenne, allspice, sherry vinegar, and fennel fronds. Heat over medium-high to a simmer. Add the reserved chopped shrimp, and heat for about a minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper, adding additional cayenne and/or sherry vinegar to taste. Garnish with fennel fronds, and serve immediately.
  8. *If you can’t find fennel with fronds, feel free to use chopped dill or a teaspoon of chopped tarragon instead.

 

Before I go…the Max’s football game this week is tomorrow evening {Thursday} which means the football team dinner is tonight {and I am cooking} so I will be back on Sunday with highlights from dinner on Friday and a new weekly dinner menu.  Thanks for visiting!

K Initial

 

 

 

 

 

 

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