14 Nov / My Menu for a GREY Day (and a Recipe for ORANGE Cantaloupe with Tapioca Pearls in Coconut Milk)
I recently read a poem that highlighted all the foods (mostly orange-colored fruits and vegetables) the author would enjoy on a dull, grey day. In delightful rhyming verse, she lists everything from cantaloupe for breakfast to apricots for dinner and a bite of orange sherbet for a midnight snack.
I’m no poet but as I was confronted with the first truly autumnal day we’ve had since the summer’s end—hello foggy, gunmetal grey skies, and freezing temperatures—I found my mind wandering to visions of sun-drenched victuals. I realized that we all have foods that cheer us up. Mine happen to be brightly colored and brightly flavored, and all are guaranteed to dissipate the dark clouds and lift my mood.
Here is my menu for a grey day:
1. Mango Salad
To me, fresh mangoes eaten out of hand are the ultimate treat. The seed is especially dear to me. My mom used to shave the flesh off the fruit sparingly, making sure she left ample flesh on the seed for me to gnaw on. My favorite way to eat mangoes nowadays is in a Vietnamese mango salad, tart and crunchy, and sprightly with spice and redolent of the clean, grassy flavors that only a jumble of herbs can provide.
The persimmon is a fruit I learned to enjoy later in life. Every fall, their bright orange hue and sunny disposition never fail to cheer me up. You’ll most likely find the squat Fuyu persimmon with its flat bottom at grocery stores. When I lived in Pacific Grove, CA, a farmer introduced me to the elongated, oval-shaped Hachiya. Astringent and bitter in gestation, they are best eaten when supersoft and the flesh has turned into a jelly-like pulp. Regrettably, I didn’t snag the farmer’s persimmon cookie recipe before I moved.
I love cantaloupe: wrapped in prosciutto, blended into soup, but preferably with tapioca pearls and coconut milk. I’ve been feeling fairly nostalgic of late and decided to prepare one of my favorite childhood desserts (below). One spoonful and I was transformed into 6-year-old me.
What do you eat to cheer yourself up on a grey day?
Cantaloupe with Tapioca Pearls in Coconut Milk
Growing up, this refreshing dessert was often served at parties and get-togethers. Every time I make it now I can almost feel the humid tropical breeze on my skin and see perpetual sunny skies above. Tapioca pearls are available both at Asian markets (be sure to buy the teeny tiny white ones, not the larger brown ones used for making bubble tea) and at corner supermarkets where they cost about three times as much. You can also serve this dessert warm, replacing the cantaloupe with cooked sweet potato or pumpkin.
Time: 30 minutes
Makes: 8 servings
6 cups water
1 cup dried small pearl tapioca (4 ounces)
3 cups cantaloupe or honey dew melon flesh, cut into 1/2-inch pieces or scooped into balls (half a medium [5 pound] melon)
1/2 cup pandan syrup
One (13-1/2 ounce) can coconut milk (1 1/2 cups)
Pinch of salt
14 ice cubes (about 2 cups)
- In a 2-quart saucepan, bring water to boil over high heat. Stir in tapioca pearls and reduce heat to medium. Cook according to package directions, or until pearls turn translucent with the barest speck of white in the middle, about 20 minutes.
- Pour tapioca into a sieve and rinse with cold running water to wash away the extra starch produced during boiling and separate individual pearls. Drain.
- In a large punch bowl, combine tapioca, cantaloupe, syrup, coconut milk, salt, and ice cubes. Stir a couple of times to mix well. Ladle into individual bowls and serve immediately.