Posted by: Catherine | July 22, 2009

Melon Surprise (RR*)



(Reader Recipe)

When Emma’s  two friends from horseback-riding camp slept over,  I wanted to serve something fun before their last day at the stable. So, the night before they came, we made this fruit extravaganza together (plus there was leftover Chocolate Torrone Loaf). It  is great for kids—so dramatic and pretty, Emma says.

I am a big believer in treating Emma and her guests as well as I treat our guests and us. (Check out Emma’s Tea Parties, which I made on a regular basis for playdates when she was little instead of a standard after-school snack.)  Even on a daily basis, Emma has always eaten what we eat, and with us. We want her to appreciate good food and table manners, be a discerning eater, and know the ins and outs of any menu when it comes time for her to go out on her own without having us to translate. Plus, since we entertain a lot and know how it feels when someone doesn’t enjoy the food we’ve carefully chosen and prepared, we want her to be a “good guest.”

I also love making this dish for an adult brunch with some champagne tossed into the fruit filling…and in a nearby glass.  I found this “beauty-recipe” (according to Emma) in my friend Gail Monaghan’s book Lost Desserts, which has one fabulous dish after another. Gail learned how to make this from her mom, who called it a “pinata melon,” but says that further research showed “its origins go back centuries to a time when a liquor-filled melon was cooled overnight in a well before gracing an elegant summer picnic–perhaps in Paris’s Bois de Boulogne or at a mid-August garden-party at Sissinghurst Castle.” Very romantic!!!

1 melon such as cantaloupe, cranshaw, musk melon, orange-fleshed honeydew, or cavaillon. Make sure the melon is attractive and can stand up on a platter so you can have the drama of cutting it at the table.

A mixture of some or all of the following: blueberries, raspberries, slices of strawberries, fresh currants, thinly sliced peeled peaches and apricots, thinly sliced nectarines and plums, halved grapes, cherries, watermelon, honeydew, and/or other melon cut into 3/4-inch dice.

1/4 cup (or more depending on the size of the melon) freshly squeezed orange juice

1/2 cup (or more) Champagne, Grand Marnier, Madeira, Lillet, port, or Sauternes

Pinch of salt

Sugar to taste (1 to 3 tablespoons, depending on size of melon and sweetness desired)

Using a thin, sharp knife, cut a round plug out of the top of the melon (similar to what you do when carving a pumpkin). Use a large spoon to remove all the seeds.

In a large bowl, mix the fruit with the juice and the liquor. Stir in salt and the sugar to tate.

Fill the melon with this mixture and replace the plug. Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.

When ready to serve, stand the melon on a large platter (if it will not balance, cut a sliver off the bottom to create a flat surface). Slice it at the table as the presentation is a major factor. Each portion should have a slice of melon and some of the macerated fruit. (NOTE: I piled extra macerated fruit around the melon.)

Other Recipes from Gail

overall-side Coffiesta Sundae

lostdesserts_pg130 Fané

dsc_0103 Frozen Lemon Meringue Bombe

dsc_34 Chocolate Torrone Loaf


Chocolate Angel Pie

img_1577 Jeremiah Tower’s Black Bean Gazpacho



  1. This is a great party idea. Beautiful colors.

  2. What a marvelous idea! It is so rare to find recipes that include a tableside presentation. This looks like a keeper!

  3. Great presentation!

  4. Stunning!! Amazing what you can do with some simple fruits!

  5. Very dramatic. I t would be a beautiful centerpiece for a wine and cheese party too!

  6. WOW! I love this…

  7. Amazing presentation too! MMMMMMM?..lovely berries marinated in a liqueur!!!


  8. Wow!!!! Lovely sweetness 🙂

    A real indulgence~

    Thanks for sharing i will try my daughter will love it….

    Have a sweet Day~

  9. It certainly makes a beautiful presentation!

  10. So pretty! I love Emma’s desciption of it as a ‘beauty recipe’. How apt.

  11. I love this recipe and it is very dramatic. It is good to teach children to appreciate good food. When my children complain about my dinners I say, “fine go live with someone who will feed you chicken nuggets every night!” Then they shut up!

  12. THis is so why I love food in its natural state. Hard to compete with the beauty of fruit. Love the presentation.

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