There is no stopping summer in my neck of the woods this year! It’s been hot, very hot and hotter than heck since early June in Portland. And wouldn’t you know it, about two weeks ago our air conditioner gave out. A repairman came over, opened up the contraption to only discover that all the wiring had been thoroughly fried and frizzled. The positive side of this, and isn’t there almost always one, was that the electrical fire stayed contained within the unit. While we have been shopping the replacement possibilities for this involved and spendy project, another heatwave is just moving in …
With those sizzling temperatures, it’s 100° right at this moment, cooking and eating a hot meal just doesn’t seem appealing.
About a week or so ago, we were invited to a friend’s house for an impromptu birthday celebration. Upon inquiring what I could bring for dinner, I was told “something fruity”. This got my brain gears moving, because the last time I went to my favorite grocery store, I had noticed a fruity melon salad in the deli department. I took a picture of the salad and label listing the ingredients. This deli has a lot of really interesting food stuff, but it can be rather expensive and the salads aren’t always at their freshest.
Instead, I went to the farmers market and picked up all the things I needed to recreate this concoction. The recipe and ingredients are flexible, and there are no precise measurements. In general I simply eyeball amounts and dishes almost always turn out good.
If this salad sounds a little strange, I urge you to try it anyway. Don’t leave out the curry powder!! If you don’t like it spicy, use a mild one. It adds the perfect contrast to the sizzled seeds and curry leaves. My favorite cuisine, which is South Indian, a lot of dishes are enhanced with a sizzling spice and seasoning mixture. They refer to it as a “Tarka”.
A tarka is yummy on salads like this, in a pot of dal or rice, and even potatoes and veggies. Give it a try!
In fact, we like this curried melon salad so much, that I’ve made it again and will continue to do so until the melon season ends. The most important part is to use really flavorful ripe fruit, and good cucumbers. I like small seedless cucumbers best. I’ve never been a fan of the popular American cucumbers because they have a thick tough skin, so many seeds and not that much flavor. Simply choose the ones you like, and this salad will be delicious. The only other thing to remember is to let the salad chill for a few hours.
Here’s the recipe:
- assorted ripe melon, peeled and cut into small cubes
- cucumber, cut into small bite size pieces
- some yellow and red bell peppers, cut into small bits
- a chile pepper or two, deseeded if you don’t like it hot, and finely minced
- a little fresh mint or other herbs, washed and minced (I used lemon basil because that’s what I had)
- juice of a large lemon
- a couple of splashes of champagne vinegar
- a pinch or two of sea salt
- a couple of tablespoons of neutral vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 1 tablespoon of Panch Phoron
- a sprig or two of fresh curry leaves
- a pinch of asafetida ( also known as “hing”)
- a teaspoon or two of a good quality Madras curry powder
In a large bowl combine the cut melon, cucumber, bell peppers, the chile pepper, herbs,
lemon juice and vinegar in a large bowl.
In a small skillet, heat the oil on medium high.
Add the mustard seeds and let them sizzle for a few moments.
Add the Panch Phoron, curry leaves and asafetida.
Stir and when the seeds start to pop put on a lid and turn off the heat.
Without a lid you will have tiny popped mustard seeds everywhere in your kitchen!
Pour the spice mixture over the melon mixture.
Sprinkle on the curry powder and mix thoroughly.
Cover the bowl and refrigerate for a couple of hours.
Just before serving taste for seasoning and enjoy!
Our friends had prepared an incredibly delicious chilled soup made with cucumbers and avocado, as well as a salad consisting of finely sliced fresh fennel, juicy oranges and olives. What a feast! A cold glass of Riesling Spätlese and wonderful conversation rounded out a most delightful visit and celebration!