By Cat, April 13, 2015 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
This salad pairs cantaloupe with salad greens and sunflower seeds, and spices the cantaloupe dressing with hot chiles.
The original recipe uses mâche, a type of salad greens also called corn salad or lamb’s lettuce (latin name: Valerianella locusta). I’ve not seen that in stores or farmers markets in my community, so I would use a mix of baby spinach and spring salad greens or torn butter lettuce, with arugula (2).
I suggest sprouting the sunflower seeds just enough to barely see the beginning of the sprout, to maximize their nutritional value. Whether or not you sprout them, toast them before assembling the salad.
Greens Salad with Spicy Melon Dressing
This recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking (1) to serve 2 rather than 4. As mentioned above, if you cannot find mâche greens (lambs lettuce), use a mix of baby spinach and torn butter lettuce. I like to add a bit of arugula to the greens mix.
Pink peppercorns are not really peppercorns, but rather berries of an unrelated tree; they are often included in a peppercorn mix because of their color, and should only be used in a peppermill if real peppercorns are included, to avoid gumming up the mill. This recipe toasts them whole, then crushes them with mortar & pestle. They don’t add much flavor, just color and texture, so they could be skipped. Or freshly grind a colorful peppercorn mix over the salad when serving. (1)
I don’t have white balsamic vinegar and have not seen it at my local grocer, so I use regular balsamic and enjoy the red color.
Ingredients & Equipment
- 1 – 2 tsp sprouted sunflower seeds (not salted)
- ½ tsp pink peppercorns OR substitute freshly-ground colored peppercorn mix (optional)
- ½ medium ripe cantaloupe melon, peeled, seeds removed
- 2 tsp white balsamic vinegar (or regular balsamic); more to taste
- 1 tsp fresh lime juice; more to taste
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh hot chile (such as Serrano or jalapeño)
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp coarsely chopped mint leaves, plus 12 large mint leaves, torn into small pieces
- Unrefined salt
- about 1 ½ – 2 cups. mâche or other greens (see suggestions above), trimmed, washed, and dried
- jar (for sprouting)
- small cast iron or other heavy skillet
- small and medium mixing bowls
- blender with lid
- For serving:
- pitcher for serving the dressing
- 2 salad plates
- Prep: Sprout sunflower seeds over 2 – 3 days, rinsing twice a day after first day. When the sprout (tail) is just beginning to be visible, rinse well, then dry them thoroughly before toasting lightly over medium heat, 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside..
- (Skip this step if using colored peppercorn mix). Toast the pink peppercorns lightly in a small skillet over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Lightly crush them with a mortar and pestle. Set aside.
- Chop mint leaves coarsely, to make ½ tsp.
- Prep melon: Cut off a section of the melon through the center, enough to make 4 lengthwise slices about 1″ thick at the outside (but don’t slice yet). Place in refrigerator until ready to serve.
- Coarsely chop the remaining half melon (roughly 1⅓ of the half melon) and place in blender for dressing.
- Dressing: Purée the chopped melon in a blender until smooth, about 45 seconds. You should have ⅓ – ½ cup melon purée in the blender. Add vinegar, lime juice, chile, garlic, and half the crushed pink peppercorns (if using), or a couple grinds of colored peppercorn blend. Slowly add olive oil while the blender is running. Add chopped mint leaves and salt to taste, and pulse to mix. If the dressing is too sweet add a little more vinegar or lime juice.
- Arrange salad: Just before serving, cut the reserved melon lengthwise into 4 long, slices, each about 1 inch thick.
- In medium bowl, toss the greens and torn mint leaves with just enough dressing to lightly coat the leaves. Season with salt to taste.
- Arrange dressed greens on serving plates with two slices of melon per plate. Scatter toasted sunflower seeds and remaining pink peppercorns (if using) on the top. If using a colored peppercorn mix, grind some lightly over the salads.
- Serve with the remaining melon dressing on the side.
- Fine Cooking recipe (finecooking.com/recipes/mache-spicy-melon-pink-peppercorn-dressing.aspx)
- Gourmet Sleuth on mâche (gourmetsleuth.com/ingredients/detail/mache)