- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 23, 2005

One hot night last month, at the end of our long stay in Paris, my husband and I ate outside at a new Left Bank bistro called Le Comptoir.

When I made the reservation, I didn’t know that the chef, the former owner of the wildly popular La Regalade in the 14th Arrondissement, offered only a single menu that changed each evening. But there was no need to worry. It was the perfect warm-weather meal.

It began with a cool shellfish soup, followed by a cold crab dish seasoned with spicy peppers and fresh basil. Next, we sampled pan-sauteed steaks served with grilled artichokes and followed by a platter of cheeses.

A dream of a dessert for a summer night was a compote of chilled melon balls resting in a pool of delectable, icy-cold sauce garnished with bits of ginger.

When I saw the chef, Yves Camdeborde, making the rounds to greet guests, I couldn’t wait until he stopped at our table. After complimenting him on his beautifully executed summer sampler, I confessed that the simple melon dessert had been my favorite dish and asked if he would share the recipe.

He smiled and began to explain how easy it was to make. He had scooped balls from Cavaillon melons (similar to but sweeter than cantaloupe) and made a sauce by pureeing some extra melon with watermelon, lime juice and honey. For serving, the melon balls were napped with sauce, then dusted with freshly grated ginger root.

When we returned to New England, temperatures were in the 90s and the humidity was soaring. I couldn’t wait to try the Paris melon dessert. I decided to use both cantaloupe and watermelon balls for visual contrast, and I made the sauce several times until the sweet and tart notes were balanced.

Now I’m planning a supper for friends, following the Parisian chef’s menu formula. We’ll begin with a chilled curried soup. Grilled sirloin steaks served with grilled summer vegetables will follow. A couple of cheeses and some crusty bread will come next. For dessert, I’m planning to fill martini glasses with colorful melon spheres and add mint sprigs as a garnish. Light, tart and sweet, it is the perfect combination for a warm summer eve.

Duo of chilled melons with honey, ginger and lime

1 medium (about 2½ pounds) cantaloupe

5 pounds seedless watermelon

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

½ cup honey

2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger

6 mint sprigs

Using a melon baller, scoop out enough cantaloupe and watermelon to make 2 cups of each. Place the balls in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cold, 1 hour or more. (The balls can be prepared up to 6 hours in advance.)

Chop 1 cup of cantaloupe and 1 cup of watermelon and transfer to a food processor or blender. Add lime juice and honey, and process until melons are pureed and well blended with the lime juice and honey.

Strain the sauce into a 2-cup or larger measuring cup with a spout to remove any seeds. Use a spatula to press down on the pulp to release all of the juices.

You should get about 2 cups sauce. Cover sauce with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator until icy cold, 1 hour or more. (Sauce can be prepared up to 6 hours in advance.)

To serve, divide the melon balls evenly among 6 martini or wide-mouthed wineglasses and pour about 1/3 cup of sauce over each. Sprinkle each serving with 1 teaspoon crystallized ginger, and garnish each with a mint sprig.

Serve cold. Makes 6 servings.

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