In this column, Scout contributor and food enthusiast Maciel Pereda shares her personal recipes aimed at solving everyday cooking conundrums. Possibilities are endless, ingredients are local, and cravings are always respected. Today Maciel shares a late summer recipe that makes the most out of the last of the season…
This recipe uses the ‘dregs’ of summer to create a graceful dish. Slightly overripe produce lusciously bursting with sweetness is tossed with peppy herbs, and dressed as simply as possible. The juxtaposition of olive-oil-slicked melon cubes is delightfully delicious. An argument for the addition of a briny cheese could certainly be made here, but I actually prefer to eschew the dairy which distracts from the succulence of summer’s final offerings.
The recipe below can be played with endlessly and still yield a hit every time. For instance, I’ve often made it using the sugary, jewel-like cherry tomatoes from my garden, but plum tomatoes can also be utilized if those are unavailable. All soft herbs that walk the line between sweet and savoury applications are welcome to the party, and any kind of melon will do. (The salad depicted in my photos feature an adorably-named snow leopard melon variety, procured from the Farmers Market.) If you have a fancy, light-coloured vinegar on hand, throw that into the dressing too!
‘Last of Summer’ Salad
Serves 6 (or more!)
1 small, very sweet melon (best with cantaloupe or honeydew)
4 mini cucumbers
1 pint super-sweet cherry tomatoes (can sub with a few large ripe tomatoes)
Handful mint leaves, finely chopped
Handful basil leaves, finely chopped
Good olive oil, to taste
Good white wine vinegar (or any fun and fancy “clear” vinegar), to taste
Kosher salt + freshly ground pepper, to taste
Optional: add a couple handfuls of crumbled salty cheese, like feta
Peel the melon and cut carefully into tidy bite-sized cubes, avoiding the seeds and any softer areas that could become mushy in the salad. Place into a large salad bowl. Peel the cucumbers and halve lengthwise; chop neatly and add to the salad bowl. If using cherry tomatoes, halve or quarter them before adding to the salad bowl (tiny tomatoes can be left whole). If using regular tomatoes, halve and seed them before roughly chopping or tearing. Squeeze the juice of 1-2 limes over the produce and toss gently to mix. You can now add in the rest of the ingredients, if desired, and serve immediately. (Alternatively, you can set the salad aside – put it in the refrigerator, if you’re leaving it for more than two hours – and add the remaining ingredients shortly before serving.)
For dressing, start with about a tablespoon each of oil and vinegar, plus a good pinch of both salt and pepper; mix, taste, and adjust as desired. Pro tip: Salads like this are best eaten NOT ice-cold from the fridge, so that the sweetness of the ingredients can shine through.
Plot out your own Farmers Market ‘Last of Summer’ Salad shopping spree here.