Melons and cucumbers are naturals together -- they're practically siblings in the botanical world -- but cooks rarely pair them. Here, they get some Mediterranean attitude with mint and garlic, making them into the coolest possible essence of summer-in-a-bowl.
Partner this salad with anything pulled from the grill, or have it as a light lunch on a bed of tender greens. Obviously, the better the melon, the better the salad, but don't be afraid to sweeten not-so-perfect melon with a sprinkle of sugar.
Cook to Cook: Cucumbers have a shifty habit of giving off liquid exactly when you don't want them to. You can beat them at their own game by giving them a 30-minute, salted rest in the fridge before assembling this salad (see below).
2 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 garlic clove, peeled and halved
1-1/2 cups ripe cantaloupe or watermelon, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/4 tightly-packed cup fresh spearmint leaves, torn
1 heaping tablespoon finely snipped chives, or scallion tops
1 tablespoon white wine or vinegar, more to taste
1 tablespoon good tasting extra-virgin olive oil, or more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, if needed to sweeten the melon
1/4 cup crumbled young sheep cheese such as Ricotta Salata, Cacio di Roma, Pecorino or feta
1. Sprinkle the cucumber with salt, roll up the pieces in a double thickness of paper towel and let rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Unwrap and pat dry.
2. Rub a serving bowl with the garlic. Add the cucumber, melon, mint, chives, vinegar and 1 tablespoon of oil. Gently combine. Season to taste with more oil or vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar, if needed.
3. Serve topped with crumbled spoonfuls of cheese and eat immediately.
From The Splendid Table's How to Eat Weekends by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift, Clarkson Potter 2011.
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