A Loaf of Melons!
This month’s featured dish, using ingredients from Melissa’s pantry of fresh and processed- from-fresh-products, comes from the kitchen of Nathan McDonough in our Retail Sales Department. Nathan used one of Melissa’s most popular specialty melons, the Charentais, as the main ingredient to improve the flavor of a childhood memory.
“One of my favorite desserts as a kid was my mom’s cantaloupe melon bread,” recalled Nathan. “When I started working at Melissa’s, I discovered the much sweeter-tasting Charentais melon, and I knew that I just had to try it in this dish. It turned out to be absolutely delicious! It has become a morning favorite of mine on weekends—a special Saturday breakfast treat.”
Actually, full disclosure and with all due respect to mom’s original formula, Nathan did not stop at that single ingredient swap. He decided that the upgrade in melon variety also called for an upgrade in presentation, i.e., some culinary pizazz. So, Nathan enlisted (as in “challenged”!) our own Chef Tom Fraker, of Melissa’s Corporate Chefs Team to create an appropriate topping for his newly christened Charentais Melon Breakfast Bread. As always, Chef Tom did not disappoint. Using whole milk to thin out a heavy cream icing, Chef came up with the perfect accouterment with just the right texture for this late morning dessert dish. In fact, Tom’s double-boil process for this topping is a delicate recipe that home chefs will enjoy mastering. It definitely adds a tasty bit of glamour to this already sweet delight!
This bread is moist, fluffy, and yes, the flavor of sweet melon definitely dominates in a pleasant way. I should also mention that, since I was sent enough Charentais melons to bake a second loaf, I did just that several days after my first attempt, this time with now much riper melon. The melon flavor was much more pronounced and flavorful! So, choose the ripest fruit when shopping for ingredients for this dish, or let the melon sit at room temperature for a few days until a pleasant aroma permeates the kitchen (a sign of ripeness!). BTW, my favorite way to enjoy this recipe is toasted with butter or cream cheese…oh my goodness!
Three days after Nathan McDonough began what he hoped would be a long career with Melissa’s, the company went into Covid lockdown following national protocols. Though the restrictions have eased some, and people are beginning to return to a normal office environment, Nathan admits that while he has met all his co-workers by now, he has yet to see them all without masks! A sad sign of the times, indeed.
“I see my sales role representing Melissa’s more as a partnering with the retailers I work with to build thriving, impactful and profitable produce departments – where Melissa’s products will shine,” Nathan explained. “The aspect that keeps my job interesting is the fact that those retailers stretch from Chicago to Dubai, requiring very different needs based on localized consumer demographics and trends; even seasonality is not a shared commonality with such a wide territory. From product assortment to consumer trends, the goal is to set a table of products, so to speak, that will enable each retailer to succeed in their unique marketplace. It’s very much like a puzzle— trying to get the pieces to fit, which makes it so rewarding when it all comes together. That really is the cool part for me…when a customer mentions that everything arrived in good order and, more importantly, is selling well. And I breathe a quiet sigh of relief!”
In his spare time, Nathan is an avid golfer who says he enjoys matches with both friends and family, explaining that “the music and good conversation make it a great way to spend an afternoon out in the sun.” Hmm, while golf has always been a great social equalizer, not sure how the golf marshals or the rest of his foursome take to Nathan’s music playing on the links! Earbuds? For nightlife entertainment, Nathan and his fiancé like going to stand-up comedy performances. His tip: sit back several rows from the stage to avoid becoming part of the act!
Charentais Melon Loaf
Makes 1 loaf
For the bread:
2 cups Charentais melon pieces, pureed
1/3 cup melted butter
½ cup sugar
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup vegetable oil
For the topping:
2 cups whole milk
2 Melissa’s Vanilla Bean Pods [option: 2 teaspoons vanilla extract]
6 Egg Yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped
Bread: In a mixing bowl, beat together melon puree, butter, sugar, eggs and oil. In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, then fold into the melon mixture to form a thick batter.
Pour batter into a lightly greased loaf pan.
Bake at 300°F for 50 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let the loaf cool in its pan for 10 minutes before de-panning.
Topping: Pour the milk into a saucepan. Split the vanilla beans in half lengthwise and scrape the vanilla seeds into the milk as well as the pods or add the vanilla extract. Bring just to a boil, remove from the heat, cover and set aside for 15 minutes.
Whip the yolks and sugar to the ribbon stage – until a thick, pale, foam-like batter is created. Then gradually whisk in the flour and salt. Whisk the vanilla milk into the egg mixture in a thin stream. Return the mixture to the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly until it thickens. It will be done when it coats the back of a spoon. Strain and set aside to cool.
When cool, fold in the whipped cream and then apply to the top of the loaf, letting it run down the sides naturally. Enjoy!