Friday, July 13, 2012

Savory Cantaloupe Salad & Chèvre on Anadama Bread

Perfectly ripe cantaloupe almost seems beyond improvement: the deep, musky perfume hits you even before you sink your teeth into the satiny smooth flesh. It's sweet, but not overwhelmingly so, and has a richness to it uncharacteristic of most fruits.

Sometimes, you just can't help tweaking perfection, though. (Also, not every cantaloupe reaches quite that pinnacle of perfection.)

A friend of mine had a fruit-themed potluck yesterday and I figured I would not take either of the easy ways out: I wouldn't bring a dessert and I wouldn't claim the botanical definition of fruit so I could bring any of those vegetables that are secretly fruits (hint: it goes way beyond the tomato).

And then I saw the melon. Many places around the world incorporate melons into savory traditions. It's worth remembering here that the cucumber (Cucumis sativus) is more closely related to "true" melons (Cucumis melo) than either is to the watermelon (Citrullus lanatus), though they are all part of the Cucurbit family which includes summer and winter squashes and, to throw you for a loop, the loofah. Once you start thinking of melon and cucumber in the same breath, the ideas really get going. While there are a number of traditions, particularly from Central Asia and China, of melon and cucumber stir-fries, I wanted to try something new.

The other inspiration came from a loaf of day-old anadama bread. If you're not familiar with it, anadama is a New England specialty bread which has a deep, sweet flavor built out of cornmeal mush and molasses. It makes an excellent sandwich bread and some of the best cinnamon toast you will ever taste. But I digress. If you want to make your own, The Yeast I Could Do a good pictorial guide to the recipe we use from Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice, but makes two modifications: she swaps some of the white flour for whole wheat, which I've done and liked, and she uses some agave syrup in place of molasses, because she ran out of molasses, and which I wouldn't recommend. Unless you, too, run out of molasses (even then, honey would be my first choice to replace it). Alternately, if you want an anadama recipe that you can complete in the course of an afternoon, King Arthur Flour's recipes are usually pretty reliable. If you don't have anadama or time to make it, a robust, grainy honey-wheat bread would be a good substitute.

I tossed the melon chunks with some of the herbs that duke it out in the pots at the bottom of my stairs (mint & tarragon), fresh lime juice and salt & pepper, and tied it to pieces of the bread with some chèvre. The thing as a whole balances delightfully well with the creamy tang of the cheese, the sweetness of the bread, melon and herbs, and the zip provided by the citrus and pepper. It may not improve on the perfection of a perfectly ripe cantaloupe, but it doesn't take away from it either.

Savory Cantaloupe Salad

  • 1 small to medium cantaloupe, cut into ½ to 1 inch chunks
  • juice of 1 lime
  • ¼ c. mixed fresh tarragon and mint
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 6-8 oz. chèvre
  • loaf anadama or honey-wheat bread, sliced
Mix melon cubes, lime juice, herbs, salt and pepper, and let sit for at least 20 minutes. Spread 1-2 teaspoons of chèvre on the bread and arrange herbed melon on it.
If you're bringing this to a party where people will be serving themselves, you might want to let people put their own melon on to avoid soggy bread. The cheese does a pretty good job of insulating the juice from the bread, but soggy bread is a very sad thing.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...