Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Melon and Tomato Salad


I've been known to go a little bit melon crazy. The array of melons at the farmers' markets is always amazing, a fact I only started noticing in recent years.

This week I bought a gorgeous orange-fleshed, palest green-skinned honeydew and a green-fleshed, yellow-skinned canary melon from Tonnemaker Orchards at the Columbia City farmers' market. I couldn't resist a fat, crinkly Crenshaw melon down the way. And summer's not really over if you're still eating watermelon, right? Ok, so I now have 4 kinds of melons on the kitchen counter.

What to do with all these melons? It's weird, but there are not a lot of great recipes out there using melons. (Except watermelon. That feta and mint salad is everywhere now. And I've even seen a recipe watermelon poké with soy sauce!) Maybe it's just because most people just eat the orange and green-fleshed melons fresh without embellishment.

Melon with prosciutto is a classic, but I was looking for adventure. On the other end of the spectrum, there are plenty of bizarre flights of fancy out there involving melon (see Bon Appetit's retrospective). Recently, there have been a few recipes in food magazines for pickled melon, which turned out to be delicious!

I tried several different melon salad recipes, and merged my favorite aspects from each. Bon Appetit's Tomato, Pickled Melon, and Burrata Salad was marvelous. But this Green Tomato and Honeydew Salad from a 2008 issue of Gourmet was life-changing - the combination of cumin, cilantro, and pepitas was unusual and intriguing. Pepitas are little green hulled pumpkin seeds sometimes used in Mexican cooking; I found them at the Beacon Hill Red Apple Market. Leaving the melon a little longer in the vinegar, as the Bon Appetit recipe suggests, made it even better.

I grew the best tomatoes ever this year - Black Prince! A miracle in Seattle, they are dark red and incredibly sweet and tangy. They were absolutely perfect in this salad. I also love it with my favorite orange heirloom tomato, Dr. Wyche's Yellow, or tomatoes that are green when ripe, like Green Zebra or Aunt Ruby's German Green.

1/2 large honeydew or other orange or green-fleshed melon
1 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 jalapeno, finely minced
1 Tbs white vinegar
1 tsp sugar (optional)
1 large heirloom tomato
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
2 Tbs raw pepitas
1 Tbs olive oil

Quarter the melon lengthwise, peel, and slice crosswise about 1/2 inch thick. Arrange in a single layer in a shallow baking dish.

In a dry skillet on medium heat, toast the ground cumin until it is a shade darker and fragrant (careful, it's easy to burn!) Stir cumin, pepper, salt, jalapeno, and vinegar in a small bowl until the salt is dissolved. Pour over the melon and let it sit for about half an hour.

Slice the tomato and arrange on a plate with the melon. Stir cilantro into the remaining liquid and drizzle over the melon and tomatoes. Wipe out the skillet and toast the pepitas until they begin to blister and brown. Toss them in a small bowl with the oil and a little salt, and sprinkle over the salad.