Dried Cantaloupe from Economy Candy

Editor's note: Please welcome Serious Eats community member BaHa, aka Barbara Hanson, who will be checking in now and again with dispatches about the various little one-of-a-kind food stores and markets in New York. She makes her debut with a new-to-us ingredient from an old favorite, Economy Candy--with an intriguing recipe. --Ed Levine

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Economy Candy has stood on Rivington Street, on the Lower East Side, for the last 71 years. These days, it lives in the gloomy shadow of the ultratrendy hotel Thor, but trendy is not a word one would ever apply to Economy: It looks like what it is, a proper old-style candy store, down to the barrel of scoop-your-own peanuts. Candy, fruit, and nuts all compete for your attention in aisles so narrow that you can't (at least I can't) back up far enough to see the top shelves opposite. There are enough competing smells to make you dizzy. New varieties of candy (and "new" here often means an older or regional candy rediscovered and brought back to light) arrive frequently.

Walk past the counter, if you can muster the will to bypass endless boxes of almost-forgotten candies, including Mallo Cups (and Valomilk, rarely seen in New York), Joyva Jell Rings and Marshmallow Twists, and French Chew Taffy, regarded by experts in the field as the only possible successor to the long-extinct and much-lamented Bonomo's Turkish Taffy.

To the rear of the store, in boxes and bins and behind shining glass cases, lies a trove of high-quality, inexpensive nuts, as well as dried and glacéed fruit. Among them is one dried fruit I've never seen anywhere else: cantaloupe.

20080506-cantaporn.jpgDried is probably the wrong way to describe the curving, orange-gold sticks, which are tender and maintain a vestigial juiciness. The melon flavor is concentrated, almost spicy, with a hint of habanero fruitiness hidden within its uber-cantaloupe intensity. I thought that it might make a good match for tropical ingredients. In fact, it marries with mango and cilantro to make an unexpected and tasty salsa.

As presented, the salsa is intended as a topping for chicken or fish. To serve as a dip, double or triple the ingredients. In that case, black beans, diced avocado, or both might make nice additions.

Dried Cantaloupe and Mango Salsa

- makes about 1 cup -

Ingredients

1 to 2 large pieces dried cantaloupe (about 3 ounces) 1 small Champagne mango (ataulfo), cut into small dice 1/4 cup chopped onion, preferably Vidalia or other sweet onion 1 small jalapeño, seeded and chopped 1 Caribbean seasoning pepper (aji), chopped, optional 1/3 cup chopped cilantro Pinch of salt Juice of 1/2 lime

Procedure

1. Chop the dried cantaloupe into more or less 1/2-inch pieces. Run your knife under hot water every few chops; it will get sticky.

2. Combine all ingredients, and toss. Let stand five minutes or so to combine flavors.