Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cantaloupe Fruit Salad... with a surprise ingredient

This is a rather brilliant fruit salad, and I'm not saying that to praise myself. The idea for this salad actually came from our lovely host in Perpignan, France this summer. The woman, Martine, was a fantastic entertainer (as are most French women, actually). We rented out two bedrooms in her beautiful maison haute, and during our stay we had breakfast with her every morning. On one of our last nights in the city, she invited us to join her for a dinner party, and this salad was one of the things that she served.

As you can see, I wasn't kidding when I said she was a great entertainer. This was only some of the "finger foods" she served during the party. The salad can be seen in the three glass bowls (top left, top right, and center).

It's so perfect for summer. Or for fall. Or spring. Or heck, even winter. Any time is a good time for a fresh fruit salad, especially one like this. When we tasted this for the first time, we immediately oohed and aahed over it, and we asked Martine what she put in it. She shared with us her brilliant idea, and now I will share it with you.

I don't want to call this a "recipe," because honestly I judge people who claim to have "recipes" for salads. First of all, this requires no cooking. Secondly, a salad is something you make when there are vegetables and fruits in the fridge that you want to combine and eat as one dish. There is no given formula. It's all based on what you have. I have never, ever in my entire life wanted to make a salad but found myself prevented from doing so because some key ingredient was missing. So what? Replace it! Omit it! There is no such thing as a recipe for a salad. What you share with others when they like a salad is a dressingI accept that there can be recipes for dressingor a technique. So this is a new technique I have for you.

The idea is fairly simple: combine cantaloupe (this can be cubed or in little balls, as you can see I did above using a small ice cream scooper), grape or cherry tomatoes, and strawberries. I like that these all have different flavors and textures, but you can also throw in grapes, blueberries, peaches, watermelon, so on. I have had this salad with all of those ingredients, so you see, it is very versatile. The key thing is the melon and the secret ingredient.

Try not to lose any of the fruit juices! That's important to this salad.

Now, smash 2 cloves of garlic. Yes, you read that right. Smash the garlic cloves peel them, chop them in half, and toss them into the fruit salad. This is what makes this salad so special. I know you're a little frightened, but trust me. The salad doesn't scream garlic! or anything; it just has a certain je ne sais quoi to it that makes people think of balsamic vinegar or the likes. It is different.
The secret ingredient

Now add 2 teaspoons of olive oil. If you have a garlic infused kind, use that! (The brand Star is the one we have, and the garlic infusion is very nice, and handy when cooking.) Add ¼ tsp salt and the juice from 1/4 of a lime. Add ground black (or white) pepper to taste. Adjust the seasoning as needed; it really depends on the sweetness/acidity of your fruit.

If you want this technique in a "recipe" formula, look below.

Cantaloupe Fruit Salad

1 ripe cantaloupe
½ to ¾ cup cherry or grape tomatoes
½ cup sliced or diced strawberries
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 tsp olive oil
¼ tsp salt (increase as needed)
juice from ¼ of a lime (increase as needed)
pepper, to taste

Combine, taste, adjust.
If you're feeling timid, you can eat this right after the salad ingredients have been combined. If you trust me, allow this to "marinade" for a few hours in the fridge so that the flavors can deepen.
Garnish with cilantro, mint, or lime zest.
If serving to guests, remove the cloves of garlic. Those aren't for eating.

Lastly, enjoy!

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