After the winter we have just endured, warm weather, gardening, and entertaining on the patio can't come soon enough. We've dined outdoors three times in the past two weeks; one time alongside icy snowbanks, one time battling strong winds -- but we were outside! Last year it was June before a dinner was eaten on the patio and I refuse to let that happen again. I also broke down and bought a cantaloupe last week. I never purchase melons in April. I saw several that were perfectly creamy white, and thought I'd take a chance. There was no green veining on the melon rind. I've always heard it's risky buying a cantaloupe with green veining; it will not be sweet. Also, the sweetness of a cantaloupe is determined the moment it is picked. After it is plucked from the ground, it may become juicier, but not sweeter.
I took a chance with this cantaloupe in mid April because I knew I'd be drizzling it with a vanilla and bay leaf infused simple syrup, adding sweetness to the melon flesh if lacking. This will be on my summer dessert menus, served with little vanilla shortbread cookies -- outdoors!
1. Combine sugar, pink peppercorns, bay leaf, and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half. Scrape the seeds and add to the saucepan along with the pod. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cool syrup; remove bay leaf and vanilla pod.
2. Place cubed cantaloupe in individual bowls and drizzle with the pink peppercorn syrup. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt, such as Maldon or fleur de sel. Serve with a vanilla shortbread cookie, or any cookie of your choice.
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