The Best Chef Tips For What To Do With Melons

The time is ripe for cantaloupes and honeydews

For too long, melon has been relegated to fruit salad filler. But cantaloupes, honeydews and their many melon siblings are pretty, full of flavor, and sturdy enough to hold up to some serious cooking. Here are a few ways to make sure your summer melon isn't forgotten.

Melon and prosciutto pizza: You've probably had dozens of disappointing versions of this classic combo, with limp, stringy prosciutto lazily draped over mushy melon. Taylor Domet, executive chef at North Italia based in Phoenix, puts the pairing on a pizza instead. He skips the tomato sauce in exchange for a white mozzarella pie topped with fresh arugula, thinly sliced prosciutto and cantaloupe. "The melon has a natural sweetness that pairs well with the salty meat," he says.

Cantaloupe chutney: Chitra Agrawal of Brooklyn Delhi came up with this unique chutney when faced with an overabundance of melons from her CSA. "Cantaloupe lends itself really well to this recipe because it's so sweet," she says. "In that sense I'm subbing it for the traditional mango, which has a similar flavor that plays off the spices and chile." Make her recipe, then pair it with Swiss cheese and toast for a spicy take on a classic tea sandwich.

Melon gazpacho: Melon is often overlooked for savory dishes but it shouldn't be. Chef Oliver Ridgeway from Grange Restaurant & Bar in Sacramento likes making a melon gazpacho using green-flesh melon like honeydew, Galia or Santa Claus. "You can use other colors," says Oliver, "But I like the way the green simulates a classic Spanish gazpacho blanco made with green grapes." He blends the fruit with red onions, cucumbers, mint, yogurt and jalapeno until smooth, and garnishes with toasted almonds, creamy yogurt, pimentón and a glug of extra virgin olive oil for a refreshing summer appetizer.

Shop right: When buying cantaloupes or honeydews, you should be able to smell a light sweetness. Casaba and Crenshaw melons will have no aroma. Avoid anything that feels really soft or has sunken areas on the skin. (Fruit flies tend to congregate around overripe melons, too.) Keep them out in a cool, dry place until you're ready to eat—they'll hold for about two weeks. Place them in the fridge for half an hour before preparing if you want to play it cool.