Cantaloupe and Goat Cheese Appetizer

It's never a bad time to get together with friends and family, and every season offers a fresh set of reasons to send out a batch of invitations. Each season has its own charms and its own ingredients, though, and summer demands lighter and fresher-tasting dishes. For example, this easy appetizer uses sharp cheese and fresh-ground pepper as a counterpoint to the lush, honey-like sweetness of ripe cantaloupe.

TOTAL TIME:25 min.

SERVINGS:4-8

Ingredients

  • 1-2 slices paper-thin prosciutto, pancetta or unsmoked bacon
  • 1 cup soft, sharp goat cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. pimento or roasted sweet red pepper, finely diced
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 medium-large cantaloupe (roughly 8"-9" diameter), well ripened
  • Fresh dill or additional pimento, as garnish (optional)

Directions

  1. Crisp the prosciutto or pancetta briefly in a hot skillet. Blot up any rendered fat with a clean paper towel, then let it cool and crumble it finely. You should have 1½-2 tablespoons when you’re done.

  2. Place the bacon in a mixing bowl with the goat cheese, sweet peppers and spices. Mix well with a spatula or wooden spoon, then refrigerate the mixture while you prepare the melon.

  3. Cut the cantaloupe into rings about 1″ wide, rather than into wedges. Scoop out the pith and seeds, then peel the rind from each ring. Cut each ring into pieces about 1″ wide.

  4. Scoop half-circles from each piece of melon, using a melon baller. Instead of pressing the baller into the melon horizontally, as you would when making melon balls, hold it vertically and only let it scoop to roughly half its depth. You’re shaping a hollow cup, which will hold the goat cheese. Set aside any damaged or misshapen pieces of melon along with the trim pieces and save those for another use.

  5. Count the pieces of melon. Use a small spoon to scoop the cheese filling into the corresponding number of portions onto a sheet of wax paper. Roll each portion between your palms to make a neat ball, then press it into the hollow of a piece of melon.

  6. Garnish the finished appetizers with a frond of fresh dill or a small wedge of pimento, if desired. Alternatively, spear each one at a jaunty angle with a frilled sandwich pick. This provides both a garnish and a handle, so your guests’ fingers won’t become sticky from the juicy melon.

  7. TIPS:

    • This recipe requires a well-ripened melon. They’re difficult to judge by appearance, so it’s best to evaluate them with your nose. If it smells ripe and sweet, it usually is.
    • If you live in an area where reliably ripe melons are hard to come by, purchase yours a few days early. Store it at room temperature in a paper bag or small box, with a few apples, pears or bananas. The other fruit will help your melon ripen. Don’t refrigerate it or cut into it until it’s fully ripe; otherwise it won’t sweeten any further.