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Posts Tagged ‘melon salad’

It’s melon season in Southwest France and I’m crying that I’m missing it. They’re incredible – a variety called charentes with a deep orange flesh and a fragrant sweetness that I’ve never experienced anywhere else. So so good. When I visit, I’ll make a point of buying several at the markets and the farmer will carefully select and mark them – 1, 2, 3 – based on what order to eat them. Amazing. My dear friend Bill often makes a simple melon salad with a bit of piment d’esplette, olive oil and sea salt that is so great. I think he once pickled the melon which was also fantastic.

Speaking of melon salads, a friend got married a few weekends ago and the food was outstanding – shout out to Maison Cuisine. There was a salad on the dinner buffet that really tickled my fancy and reminded me of Bill – melon, red onion, cucumber with the delightful addition of candied ginger. I made a quick note in my phone for later (one never knows where you’ll find inspiration), grabbed another cocktail and danced the night away.

I can’t really get great melons like those in France, more’s the pity. Sometimes, for a short week or two, something similar might be at the farmers market but for the most part, it’s rather bland cantaloupes. Sad. My plan was to take one of those mediocre grocery store cantaloupes and see if I could zhuzh it up with some of these flavors, inspired both by Bill and that wedding salad. I bought one and that was the plan but then I did something typical. I forgot about that melon. I overcommitted myself and never quite got to it. But something amazing happened as it sat on the counter. That damn thing ripened to an amazing sweetness. Sure it was just this side of turning but holy hell was it good – sweet and flavorful and wonderful. Better than when I bought it, most certainly!

The combination of sweet melon, cucumber, red onion and those surprise bits of ginger with a bit of lemon juice, mint and a hint of spice was outstanding. Crunchy, cold, refreshingly wonderful, it’s another one for those too hot and too tired to cook kind of days. I had originally thought of adding some honey to bring up the sweetness but my lackadaisical attitude took care of that and I didn’t even need it. If your melon isn’t quite up to par, maybe add a little honey. Or just forget about it on the counter for a week because that apparently works too. 

STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: PROCRASTINATION FOR THE WIN! If you can’t find a good melon, maybe plan ahead for this one. I can’t guarantee that a mediocre melon will turn into a great one after a week on the counter but it can’t hurt to try. 

thirteen years ago: Tart Tips & Tart DoughSour Cherry Sorbet

twelve years ago: Betty’s Pies exploring Minnesota

eleven years ago: Sweet & Spicy Beer Mustard

ten years ago: Bastille Day Bomb PopsSour Cherry Slab Pie

nine years ago: Spicy Pineapple PaletasHungarian Cherry Soup

eight years ago: Guinness Crème Anglaise

seven years ago: Blender Gazpacho,   

six years ago: Blueberries & Cream PopsiclesBeef Bulgogi & Rice Cake SkewersThai Grilled Coconut Rice & Banana

five years ago: Salmon Rilettes

four years ago: Greek Salad Piadini Sandwiches

three years ago: Strawberry Mascarpone Galette

two years ago: Pico de Gallo White Bean SaladSimple Summer Fruit Tarts

last year: Sorrel (Hibiscus Drink)

SUMMER MELON AND GINGER SALAD

serves 4-6

I like a bit of spice in this mix; it goes so well with the sweetness of the melon and the herbal notes from the mint. In the spirit of my French friends, I used piment d’esplette, a mild ground red pepper from the Basque country but can be hard to find. In its place, Aleppo pepper is nice but also may be a challenge to locate. That delightful Mexican spice mix, Tajin, is great or, taking a tip from Cooks Illustrated, use a mix of sweet paprika and cayenne.

1 cantaloupe, peeled, halved, seeded, and cut into 1 ½” chunks (6 cups)

½ red onion, thinly sliced

½ English cucumber, halved lengthwise and sliced thin

1 generous tablespoon candied ginger, sliced into thin batons

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon mild honey, optional

1 teaspoon piment d’esplette (or dried Aleppo pepper, Tajin or ¾ teaspoon sweet paprika + ¼ teaspoon cayenne)

½ teaspoon sea salt

¼ cup fresh mint, chopped

  1. Taste your melon: if you’re lucky and it’s very sweet and flavorful you can skip the honey. 
  2. Combine red onion and lemon juice in large bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. 
  3. Stir in piment d’esplette (or spice of choice), salt and honey if needed. 
  4. Add the cantaloupe, cucumber, candied ginger and chopped mint; stir to combine. 
  5. Transfer to shallow serving bowl and serve. Salad is best eaten the day it’s made.

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