Melons And More From Orangette

by Joseph Russell · July 22, 2008

    melon saladI'm more of a gourmand than gourmet and a kitchen dunce to boot, but there is a leetle part of me that wishes I were a food blogger. They seem so charmingly invested in their product, and many are quite skillful writers. Seattleite Molly Wizenberg's Orangette is one of my favorites because each recipe comes with a story. The bulk of the recipes aren't her own, and occasionally just seem like an excuse for storytelling, but her telling is so superb -witty, personal, full of asides, that it really doesn't matter.

    Yesterday I was casting about for interesting summer salads and I found this. The main ingredients -cantalope, prosciutto, arugula,  and olive oil, are nothing new, but the roundabout way she illustrates its conception is such fun to read. I'm not going to post the backstory here, just the recipe, but if you've never been to her site before, you really must. I think she has a cookbook coming out soon as well.

    Early Summer Composed Salad Inspired by Nigel Slater and his Kitchen Diaries

    This salad is only as good as its individual components, so make sure your ingredients are as good as possible. (I know I’ve said that before, but I mean it.) The melon, especially, should be a great one - sweet and fragrant, the kind that makes you stop and inhale, sighing a little, each time you walk past.

    I like to let mine sit on the kitchen counter until I’m sure it’s plenty ripe, and then I stick it in the fridge for a few hours before serving. (I like most fruits best when they’re chilled, especially melons.) The olive oil, too, should be of excellent quality. My current favorite is this one, made in Sacramento.

    Tea introduced me to it, and as she says, it’s almost more like olive juice than it is like olive oil. (That’s a good thing, in case you’re wondering.) It’s a beautiful shade of yellowy green, thick and cloudy and wonderfully grassy. It makes everything it touches stand up and sing.

    The quantities below are approximate and make a light Sunday lunch or supper for two people. For a vegetarian alternative, replace the prosciutto with ribbons of shaved Parmigiano Reggiano. Brandon gives it his seal of approval.

    ½ of a small ripe cantaloupe, seeds and rind removed, cut into rough 1-inch chunks A few thin slices of prosciutto, torn into wide strips 1 ball of fresh mozzarella, cut into six slices About 4 ounces baby arugula 1 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for serving 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice, plus more for serving Crunchy salt, such as Maldon or fleur de sel Freshly ground pepper A small handful of Italian parsley leaves (optional)

    Divide the melon, prosciutto, and mozzarella between two plates, arranging each item in its own little pile. Set aside.

    Put the arugula in a medium bowl. In a small cup, whisk together 1 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Drizzle the dressing over the arugula, and, using your hands, toss very gently. (Arugula bruises ridiculously easily. It’ll bruise if you even look at it wrong.) Put a handful of arugula on each plate, alongside the melon, prosciutto, and mozzarella.

    Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper over the mozzarella. Splash a bit of lemon juice over the melon. Drizzle the melon and mozzarella with olive oil. Sprinkle a bit of parsley over the plates, if you like. Serve, with plenty of crusty bread.

    Yield: 2 servings

    [Image via Molly Wizenberg]