Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Checkerboard Melon Salad

There were summer days in China where I ate almost nothing but fruit.  Eating anything hot or heavy when the humidity lingered in the air like a wet blanket was unthinkable.  Tart, acidic pineapple for breakfast, with maybe a few bites of yogurt.  Sweet Mandarin oranges for lunch.  Crisp cherry tomatoes for an afternoon snack.  Juicy watermelon and mangoes for dinner.

I remember one sultry evening where the air didn't get any cooler even after the sun went down.  Sitting on the concrete bleachers next to the students' football (soccer) field, sweat glistening on my skin, I ate watermelon with one of my closest Chinese friends.  We spit seeds as far as we could and didn't care that we were covered in red drips.

For some reason, my mom has always hated watermelon and refuses to eat a single bite.  I love the fruit, but detest anything with fake watermelon flavoring, like hard candy.  In high school, there was often a bag of frozen assorted melon balls in our freezer, and my sister and I would fill up a big bowl and slowly eat them while we read books under the ceiling fan in our bedroom, savoring their iciness on our tongues.

With all the little kitchen gadgets I have, for some reason I don't even own a melon baller, so coming up with a creative way to present a melon salad was a little challenging.  Also challenging is cutting a piece of round fruit into square cubes, but the result was so beautiful.  For lack of a better name, I'm calling this Checkerboard Melon Salad.

To enhance the flavor, I drizzled a little honey over the fruit.  A sprinkling of cinnamon (which I added after the fact) made it even better...

Instead of individual servings, you could even make one big one on a serving platter, maybe arranged like a pyramid.  How stunning would that look for a party?

Jamie arrived home last night from his weekend in Sturgis, hot, sunburned and exhausted.  Since he's not a fruit-for-dinner-guy, I presented him with this salad as a refreshing starter, although we were having steak, sweet potatoes and zucchini for dinner later.  Somehow, I don't think you could find a fruit salad like this in Sturgis...

Checkerboard Melon Salad
printable recipe

  • 3 small melons of contrasting colors, such as seedless Watermelon, Cantaloupe and Honeydew
  • honey or agave nectar
  • ground cinnamon or nutmeg
  • sprigs of fresh basil or mint

Cut each melon in half and scoop out the seeds.  Remove the rind.  Cut each half into 3/4-inch slices, then cut the slices into 3/4-inch cubes.  (Save any leftover odd-sized pieces for juicing, adding to a smoothie or making popsicles.)

For each serving, you'll need 9 cubes of each color, for a total of 27 cubes.  Arrange the cubes of melon in 3 layers, alternating the colors.

Drizzle with the honey or agave nectar, sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg, and garnish with fresh herbs.  Enjoy!

To create a large pyramid salad, make it as high as you like for as much fruit as you have.  To calculate how many cubes you'll need for each level of a pyramid rather than a square, just add 2 cubes to the edges as you go down; for example, the top of the pyramid will be just one cube.  The second level would be 3x3 cubes (total of 9), the 3rd level would be 5x5 cubes (total of 25), the 4th level would be 7x7 cubes (total of  49), the 5th level would be 9x9 cubes (total of 81), etc...  To make a 5-level pyramid salad, you would need to cut 165 cubes, which may be all the square pieces you could get from three small melons.

Yields about 6 servings.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen