CAN’T JUDGE A BOOK SIGNING . . . & CANTALOUPE

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by Debra on August 19, 2010

Musical pairing – Missed Opportunity by Hall & Oates

Last March, The Professor and I took our first trip to Charleston, SC and absolutely fell head-over-heels in love!  Instead of staying in a hotel, we rented a house about one block from one of the prettiest beaches I’ve ever seen and spent the entire week riding bicycles, combing the beach for shells and discovering all that Charleston and it’s rich history has to offer – including the food . . . oh my stars-and-garters, the food.

We dined at 17 North Roadside Kitchen, Closed for Business, Monza Pizza and 82 Queen; we ate gelato from Paolo’s, upscale deli fixings from Caviar & Bananas and pastries from Baked.  We toured the Middleton Place Plantation and took a cooking class at Maverick’s Charleston Cooks.  We even managed to score coveted tickets for Charleston’s ‘Lowcountry Gospel Brunch.’ But the highlight of our trip happened in Blue Bicycle Books . . . only I didn’t know it was the highlight of our trip until after I had returned home.  Because I met Ted Lee of the Lee Bros and didn’t know it or rather, had no idea who the Lee Bros were . . . and I’m a food blogger . . .

We walked into Blue Bicycle Books on a Sunday afternoon and noticed a display of boiled peanuts and two very large stacks of cookbooks; and cookbooks are my weakness.  Some girls like shoes, clothes and handbags – and I love those things too but given a choice, I’ll choose a cookbook every time.  There’s a tall, lanky guy putting finishing touches on the display of peanuts, checking the stack of books and generally looking like he’s getting ready for a book signing event.  I’m thinking he’s the cashier . . .  I flip through both books not really ‘seeing’ any of the recipes; I head down the hall and find the resident kitty, spend a few minutes loving on him and back up front I go.  I wander around looking at other books, artwork, photos and then find myself standing at the stack of cookbooks again; lanky guy is still flitting around getting things ready.  Finally, the chapter on pickling catches my eye because I know we’re planting a big garden this year and I want to pickle some of the squash, peppers and tomatoes – and I did spy a Radish Butter recipe I wanted to try.  Done deal – sold on the cookbook.  The Professor takes the book to the counter to pay and lanky guy says, ‘Matt should be here in just a minute, do you want to wait?  He’d be happy to sign it for you.’  ‘Oh that’s ok, we’re fine . . .’ says The Professor.  Still no clue for me other than I start to think that maybe the Lee Bros are local guys who wrote a couple of cookbooks and are celebrities in town; town support, local bookstore cheering them on – you know, like cheering for your First-grader’s soccer team?  Right.  Lanky guy then says, ‘Do you want me to sign it for you?’ ‘Sure,’ says The Professor, ‘we’re interested in pickling and this looks like it’s got some good recipes.’

So lanky guy writes, ‘To Debra and The Professor, have fun pickling! We hope you enjoy our new recipes!  Very Best, Ted Lee, 3/7/2010.’

Once home, I hunker down with my new book reading from cover to cover . . . I reach the back flap and I read: ‘Their first cookbook, ‘The Lee Bros Southern Cookbook,’ received the James Beard Award for Cookbook of the Year in 2007.  They are contributing editors for Travel + Leisure and the wine columnists for Martha Stewart Living.’

These guys are freakin’ James Beard Award winners . . . and I totally dissed them . . . life lesson here?  You can’t judge a book signing by its cover.

Matt & Ted, if you’re reading this (and here’s where I’m completely delusional because of course you’re not reading this) my apologies; and not that it’s likely to happen, but if I ever meet you again, hell yes I want your autograph!  And could I bother you for a picture too??

CANTALOUPE W/BLACK PEPPER & MINT
The Lee Bros – Simple, Fresh, Southern  Page 223

Serves 8

INGREDIENTS:

8 Sprigs Fresh Mint
6 Tablespoons Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 ripe 3-pound Cantaloupe, halved and seeded
Coarsely ground Black Pepper

METHOD:

1.  Strip the leaves from 6 of the mint sprigs and put the leaves in a small saucepan.  Add 3 Tablespoons water, the sugar and the salt and set pan over low heat.  Stir with a wooden spoon, bruising the mint against the sugar with the back of the spoon until the sugar has dissolved completely and the mint leaves have shriveled and are no longer bright green, 5 to 6 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat, cover it and set aside in a cool spot.

2.  While the syrup cools, use a 1-inch melon baller to scoop out the cantaloupe, letting the balls fall into a large bowl; you should have about 1 quart melon balls.

3.  When the mint syrup is cool enough to touch, strain it into the cantaloupe in the bowl, and toss to coat.  Grind black pepper over the melon to taste, and chill in the refrigerator, covered, for 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

4.  Strip the leaves from the remaining 2 mint stems.   Toss the cantaloupe in the bowl and serve the cantaloupe and syrup in tumblers or bowls, garnished with the fresh mint leaves.

GARNISH IT RICH TIP:
Thick yogurt – particularly whole-milk Greek yogurt, enriches this dessert considerably, in addition to giving it a pleasing buttermilk-like tang.  Alternate spoonfuls of yogurt with the melon balls in the tumbler so it looks like a parfait and garnish the top with the fresh mint leaves.

© 2010, Debra. All rights reserved.

Leave a Comment

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Yue Edwards September 8, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Charleston is stunning indeed!! when we went there last year, we got up before sunrise to drive to the beach watching sunrise. Simply beautiful!!! lots of jelly fish on the beach too~~

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Barbara @moderncomfortfood August 22, 2010 at 7:12 am

Love your fun trip to Charleston (Savannah’s also excellent for exactly the same purpose). And this wonderful recipe really speaks to me too. So refreshing, cool, simple, and perfect for these dog days of summer!

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Kim at Rustic Garden Bistro August 22, 2010 at 12:35 am

If it were me:

Hand to forehead, hand to forehead, hand to forehead…

Actually, this kinda reminds me of that Southwest Airlines commercial where some dude gets caught with porn in his office cube, then feels the need to slink under his desk. :-)

What a great story!

And I’m with ya – I collected at least 3-4 cookbooks during that recent trip to San Francisco. :P

[K]

P.S. LOVE THE NEW LOOK! Great colors!!! Barb, great job!

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Chef Dennis August 21, 2010 at 8:48 pm

wow…..now that is an incredible story! Its funny to think people as famous as they are can be just regular people like us! I once had Allison Kraus walking thru my kitchen stopping to talk to me, one of my best memories!
it does sound like you had one heck of a great trip!

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Amy from She Wears Many Hats August 21, 2010 at 10:46 am

Hilarious Debra! Come back down and we’ll go find them together.

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sweetlife August 21, 2010 at 12:01 am

Oh goodness, what a cute story….I watch them all the time on Martha Stewart and they are super nice, I am sure they didn’t get upset. Oh when I was living in San Antonio I sold three packs of cigarettes to dennis Rodman and he kept talking and talking and talking and I was like “okay, laters dude! thanks for shopping at ***” I had no idea he played for the Spurs….haha

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Amber August 20, 2010 at 4:08 pm

I have to admit I would have done exactly the same as you. Isn’t it funny how that works?

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Liam O'Malley August 20, 2010 at 10:54 am

The who with the what now?

This is a great story, I love it. I could have so easily done the same exact thing in your shoes.

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bunkycooks August 19, 2010 at 11:20 pm

That is a hoot! I didn’t know who they were until recently either, but at least I didn’t have the opportunity to meet them and ignore them in person! ;) Just kidding! They will forgive you…I am sure! And yes… you definitely cannot judge anyone or anything by it’s “cover’! Great story.

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Wenderly August 19, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Such a charming story, sounds *exactly* like something My Yanni and I would do! LOVE Charleston by the way!

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Anna Johnston August 19, 2010 at 8:29 pm

That is a funny story and one I’m sure I could very equally be guilty off. Your Charleston adventure sounded pretty darn cool too :)

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Marly August 19, 2010 at 5:04 pm

What a great story. I love unexpected outcomes like that. I agree with other comments – Charleston sounds wonderful. I may have to put that on the list of possible vacation sites…soon!

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Monet August 19, 2010 at 4:05 pm

How funny…I’m pretty oblivious to things like that too! I love the cantaloupe here…black pepper does wonders on a juicy, sweet fruit!

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The Rowdy Chowgirl August 19, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Oh, that’s too funny! I wouldn’t have known who they were either! Charleston sounds wonderful–especially the bookstore. All of the best bookstores have resident kitties, of course!

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Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction August 19, 2010 at 1:26 pm

I have to admit that I’m a cantaloupe hater… And it kills me that we’ve been getting one every week in our CSA share. I’ve been forcing myself to eat it anyway. So, I’ll have to give this a try… Perhaps it will help me to learn to appreciate cantaloupe!

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My Man's Belly August 19, 2010 at 1:17 pm

I love that relaxed aspect of the South. He didn’t try to make you understand who he was. He graciously accepted that you didn’t. Stuff like that doesn’t happen too often here in LA.

The simplicity of this recipe is wonderful. Again, just letting the melon be what it is and not trying too hard to make you see the melon.

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Liren August 19, 2010 at 1:15 pm

I’ve had a similar experience with celebs – actually spent a good time chatting with Brooke Shields once with our daughters in the swings years ago when we lived in Santa Monica. But she was so low key and casual that I didn’t’ connect the dots till much later. It’s nice for celebrities to not be gushed over all the time! How nice to have your cookbook signed, though! And what a gorgeous dish, beautifully photographed!

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Tickled Red August 19, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Hahaha…that has me holding my tummy. Life is like that, always throwing you curve balls when you least expect it. Enjoy that book dalrlin’.

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Barbara | VinoLuciStyle August 19, 2010 at 12:21 pm

I am betting he/they actually enjoyed it. Someone not fawning over them and wondering if it was real or just out of their celebrity. Then maybe having a small delight at that day you did see their accomplishments and know how close you had been to the sun!

I love the simplicity of this dish; perfect and beautiful!

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soufflebombay August 19, 2010 at 10:54 am

So funny! I totally get you…years ago I was at the first MTV award show in NYC- they didn’t split us regular folks up from the celebs – (a friend of mine won ticks on the radio) anyway all I wanted to do was to meet Duran Duran…who would of course fight over me and one would eventually fall in love with me lol (the mind of a teenager). Well this guy (who spilled a drink on me) was chatting me up asking to get me a drink etc for awhile I chatted a bit but kept looking around the room for “my boys” totally blowing him off…guess who it was in electric blue pants no less…David Lee Roth…I just wasn’t into that type of music and he was totally perplexed that I could care less about him.

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Lana @ Never Enough Thyme August 19, 2010 at 10:17 am

So funny, Debra!! I don’t know that I would have recognized either of them, but I surely know the names. They have a fabulous way of presenting traditional and updated southern classics.

Love this recipe. Reminiscent of my Daddy always putting black pepper on his cantaloupe at breakfast.

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Chris August 19, 2010 at 9:58 am

This sounds like a great fresh take on cantaloupe. Love the mint addition.

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Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon August 19, 2010 at 9:57 am

Debra, if I were to confess the actual extent to which I am oblivious to the larger food community, the food blog police would shut me down. So let’s just keep this partial confession between us, shall we?

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Tracy August 19, 2010 at 9:49 am

Hehe, I loved reading this post! I honestly didn’t know who they were either…how sad is that? *hangs head in shame* ;-)

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