A Simple (?) Cantaloupe Salad To Cool Down Dinner

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Cantaloupe Salad with Cucumber, Pancetta, and Feta

The madness of summer heat is upon us and I’m craving simplicity. This is the time of year to make like a chef: Embrace the simplicity, and allow the ingredients to speak for themselves. Which isn’t always as easy as it sounds. That’s because simplicity is complicated. Easy may seem like the simplest choice, but true simplicity is rarely easy. Does that make sense? Let me try it this way. Confucius said, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” Which sounds profound, but I think he was just sharing the cooking notes for his own Cantaloupe Salad.

Which I can relate to.

Cantaloupe Salad with Cucumbers and Pancetta

My original intention was to keep this Cantaloupe Salad very simple. I was going to take shards of cantaloupe and slices of cucumber and toss them with tarragon and vinegar and be done with it. Then I started thinking about tarragon and vinegar. They taste great together but have you ever noticed what happens to tarragon when it comes it contact with a strong acid? It turns black and slimy. Which may be simple, but it wasn’t something I could embrace. So decided to add just one more step to my simple cantaloupe salad. I infused the vinegar with fresh tarragon and tossed the leaves once they got slimy. Simple, right?

However, in the course of my prep work for this salad, I tasted my super sweet summer cantaloupe and realized all those honey notes were going to need some balance. I still had a block of feta leftover from the Baked Feta I made earlier in the week… I’m sure you’ve noticed how simple it is to crumble feta.

After that, it didn’t take long for me to notice a package of forgotten pancetta in my refrigerator and suddenly I recalled reading about a salad recipe that drizzled hot pancetta oil on cold cucumbers. Doesn’t that sound good? I’d already planned on cucumbers for my simple salad. How hard would it be to drizzle my Cantaloupe Salad with hot pancetta and tarragon-infused cider vinaigrette?

Need I go on? We’ve all been there… GREG

Cucumber Slices

Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe Salad with Cucumber, Pancetta, and Feta

Cantaloupe Salad with Cucumber, Pancetta, and Feta

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Published

Ingredients

  • ½ cup cider vinegar
  • ¼ ounce fresh trragon
  • 1 ripe cantaloupe
  • 1 English cucumber
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 ounce thinly sliced pancetta (chopped)
  • 2 tablespoon chopped shallots
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3 ounce crumbled feta cheese

Directions

Infuse the vinegar: Pour the cider vinegar into a jar, gently crush the tarragon stalks and leaves in your hand and place them into the vinegar, pushing them down into the liquid as much as you can. Screw on the lid and set aside, occasionally shaking the jar, for a minimum of four hours and up to overnight.

Slice the melon in half and scoop out and discard the seeds. Remove the melon flesh in large, juicy shards, saving as much of the juice as possible. Place the fruit and juice into a mixing bowl. Slice the cucumber into ⅓-inch thick rounds and add them to the bowl with the melon. Place the melon and cucumbers in the refrigerator to chill until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, fry the pancetta in the olive oil until very crisp, then remove and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Reserve the fat in the pan.

When ready to serve warm the pancetta fat over a medium heat, then remove the tarragon from the vinegar and pour 4 to 6 tablespoons into the hot fat, be careful it may sputter. Stir in the shallots and add a few grinds of black pepper. Quickly pour the hot dressing and wilted shallots over the chilled melon and cucumbers, tossing to combine. Transfer the salad to a serving plate and garnish with reserved pancetta, feta cheese, and more black pepper.