Today’s selection for my Market Matters post from the Hollywood Farmers Market is another melon. Persian Melon. What can I say? They are so seasonal and there is nothing better than a perfectly ripe melon.
This time I have chosen a Persian melon, also known as Patelquat. Which is a large greenish muskmelon with delicate netting on the rind and a rich salmon-colored flesh. It looks a bit like a larger more oval shaped cantaloupe, though it is usually much more fragrant. Persian melons are bigger than a cantaloupe too. They typically weigh around 5 pounds. Naturally, they have a delicious, sweet flavor. I think they taste like a much more intense cantaloupe. In Southern California, they’re available from July through October, with a peak in the late summer.
As with all melons choose Persian melons that are heavy for their size, and very fragrant. They should be firm with a small amount of softness at the stem end. The rind should be the palest of green with netting that is slightly brown when ripe. If the background is very green the melon is not yet ripe. Persians are the best vine-ripened, but if you mistakenly get a green one let it sit on the counter at room temperature for a few days. Ripe melons should be refrigerated and will keep as long as two weeks if uncut.
The thing about Persian melon is it can be intensely sweet. So you may be tempted to simply slice it and eat it. Which is a very good way to go. I like to cut it into slices and sprinkle them with Anise seeds. If it were a cantaloupe and needed a bit of a sweetness boost I might also drizzle it with a splash of anise-flavored liqueur. But Persians rarely need that extra enhancement, so the seeds should be enough pizzazz.
But there is another way to go. Rather than augment their sweetness, sometimes the best way to highlight it is to contrast it. It’s this contrast that makes them pair so well with salty foods. They are a great choice to serve alongside cured meats as in the classic melon and prosciutto combination. I love the yin and yang aspect of these flavors so I am going to make a salad with some of those very same qualities.
My salty element is going to be the very best feta I have ever tasted. It is from Bulgaria and I get it at an Armenian market in Los Feliz. I can’t read the sign because it’s written using letters I am unfamiliar with, so I can’t tell you the name of the place. But I can say it is at 1800 1/2 Hillhurst. If you live anywhere nearby drop in and pick up some of this amazing cheese. Make sure you get the Bulgarian though. I prefer it to the other two choices they have.
Anyway, the salty cheese will compliment the sweet melon and it would be fine to serve them together with just a grind of black pepper. But I want a salad with various tastes and texture, because– well, I like a salad with various tastes and textures.
To accomplish this I am adding cucumber slices left a bit chunky so they will have a satisfying crunch. There are also whole mint leaves in there for the herbal quality they bring. Don’t choose peppermint or any of the menthol mints, however. Stick to the “greener” tasting mint like spearmint, basil would be nice too.
I added some red onion slices. I surprised myself by cooking the onions in a bit of vegetable oil until they became a bit softened. I decided this salad needed that luscious texture. Toasty pine nuts add a final flourish in the texture department.
To finish this salad I have decided to forgo dressing the salad with conventional vinaigrette. Instead, I think a squeeze of lime is all that is needed to keep these flavors bright and happy.
Inspired by a salad from Gourmet June 1995
- 1 T vegetable oil
- 1 red onion, peeled, halved and sliced into 1/4″ slivers
- 1 orange-fleshed melon such as Persian or cantaloupe
- 1 seedless cucumber, peeled and sliced into 1/2″ thick rounds
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1⁄2 c whole mint leaves, loosely packed
- 4 oz feta cheese
- 1⁄2 c pine nuts, toasted
- limes, cut into wedges
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat the oil in a medium saute pan set over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often until just beginning to soften; about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and allow the onions to cool completely.
With a sharp knife cut a small slice off the top and bottom of the melon. Just deep enough to expose the orange flesh. Cutting from top to bottom remove the rind following the contour of the melon. Halve the melon, remove the seeds and cut into 1″ thick wedges. Arrange the wedges on a serving platter.
Toss the cucumber slices with the cooled onion slices, mint leaves, and lime juice, pouring the mixture on top of the melon wedges. Crumble the feta over it all. Garnish with pine nuts, lime wedges and a good grind of black pepper.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD