Monday, July 24, 2006

Tiny Banquet goes to Connecticut, makes giant pot of pink pudding

On Saturday morning Tiny Banquet packed up the car and headed to Westbrook, Connecticut to visit the Chairwoman's parents.

dumpy truck

They don't mind if I bring some dirty laundry and stuff.

It was too cloudy to go the beach so I decided to make a recipe I'd been wanting to try, an Italian watermelon pudding called Gelo di Melone from Anissa Helou's Mediterranean Street Food.

Step 1 was to find a ripe watermelon. There were none at the Saybrook farmers' market, but there was a perfect one at Walt's Market around the corner. Reportedly Saybrook resident Katharine Hepburn shopped at Walt's. It's the sort of market anyone would be lucky to have nearby, with fresh produce out front, a good-smelling meat counter running the length of the back of the store, and a small stash of Ciao Bella sorbet in the freezer case.

Walt's Market

Walt's sign 2

We didn't pick up anything besides the melon because we had reservations at Café Routier for dinner.

Step 2 was to remove the seeds from the melon. A time-consuming task, but not an unpleasant one.


watermelon close-up

After that the pudding comes together very quickly: Put about a quart of strained watermelon juice (a 5- to 6-pound melon will give you the right amount) in a pan and whisk in 1/3 cup of sugar and 2/3 cup cornstarch. When there are no lumps remaining, turn the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Let it boil, whisking continuously, "for a couple of minutes." (I let it boil for about 4 minutes).

Gelo di Melone cooking

Take the pan off the heat and add some jasmine water (the recipe calls for three tablespoons, to be prepared by soaking jasmine flowers in water for a few hours) or rose water (which is what I had; I used two teaspoons). Don't worry if the pudding looks thin, it will thicken as it cools. You don't want to let it cool in the pan entirely, though, because you need to be able to pour it into eight serving bowls or cups.

I didn't pour the pudding directly into serving bowls because I planned to leave half of it in Connecticut and take the other half home in my little cooler; I poured it into a couple of tupperware-type containers, and headed off to liberate a private beach from Whitey.

Grove Beach gate

We didn't bother fiddling with the gate but I'd say there's about a 95% chance the security code is
1-2-3-4 — mighty clever if you're one of the gin-and-tonic-addled locals

Grove beach

Looking east on Grove Beach.

It wasn't until Tiny Banquet got back to Manhattan and spooned some of the pudding into a dish that I realized what a mistake I'd made: If the pudding isn't poured into its serving dish before it sets, it will never be pretty. I tried to get rid of the lumps with the tiny whisk I usually use for salad dressing, but it only made the pudding lumpy + fluffy.

yuck, it's lumpy

Hellou says that chocolate chips and candied zucchini (zuccata) are the usual garnishes; the recipe lists these as optional, and calls for coarsely ground pistachios and ground cinnamon.
I used only chopped pistachios

On Monday night I decided that if the rest of the pudding was to be eaten, it would have to first be made liquid again and poured into serving dishes. I put the remaining pudding into a small saucepan and heated it over a low flame, stirring with a fork every minute or so. Gradually it melted to a semi-liquid state; I took it off the heat before it was completely liquified because I didn't want it to be overcooked. This time I poured it into serving dishes while still hot. Voila! After cooling to room temperature and then spending some time in the refrigerator, the pudding was much more presentable.

Gelo di Melone, unfugged

The pistachios really complement the delicate flavor of the pudding; I'm not sure how else to describe it other than to say that it tastes summery and pink. Both the watermelon and rose water flavors come through clearly, and the taste and texture are refreshing. It was fun to make and I don't dislike it, but I can't imagine I'll ever have a craving for it in the future.


  1. Hi, Madeleine,

    Thought I'd check your blog before we fly off tomorrow for two weeks in northern Arizona and nearby areas. Lo and behold, I found your latest posting. Frankly, I'd much rather eat sweet ripe watermelon as is on a hot day than bother with that pudding recipe. And that garnish of candied zucchini and chocolate chips involves two things I don't much care for. On the other hand, I love everything with pistacchio.
    My sister-in-law Cissy (Elisabeth)flew into Boston from Austria on July 13 and was met at Logan by your sister Judy. They then took the ferry from Boston to Provincetown on Saturday, where we met them. It's been amazing to us for some time how well aunt and niece get along; they act more like sisters (Cissy is 15 years younger than her sister Maria, and she is just 15 years older than Judy). They are so alike in personality - both very caring individuals totally lacking in cynicism. They are also both in much better shape physically than Maria and I are. One morning they rented bikes and rode 26 miles down and back on the Cape Cod bike trail. After returning the bikes, instead of calling me to pick them up, they just walked the two miles back to our cottage.
    I don't remember whether I told you before - we returned one day early from the Cape so that I could go to Bridgeport for my 46th-year reunion of the Bassick HS class of 1960. Our first reunion since the 25th, it was a blast. I had so much fun that I actually got up and danced a bit when most of my classmates started doing 1950s dances after dinner. When I was in high school, I was too strictly religious ever to go to a school dance, and even after I became more "enlightened" I remained very introverted and lacking in a sense of coordination. Maria hates to dance, so she never encouraged me, and I rarely dance. Judy, by the way, despite 2 parents with 4 left feet, joined a high school dance group and goes regularly for contradancing.
    I want to go on and look at your earlier postings. Sam

  2. mmmmm... i bet the polish ham would actually taste good with your pretty puddings!
    i love melon + ham
    these are so pretty and girly!

  3. Hi Ann! I love ham + melon too; such a great combination -