Farmers Market Favorite | Summer Melon Salad

In this kind of oppressive heat, I know I don't feel like cooking over a hot stove, and frequently, I don't even feel like eating. Certainly nothing too heavy, or it will sit like a lead balloon, fueling nothing more than lethargy and lassitude. Fresh and light are the orders of these days-- short prep work and wholesome foods are the ingredients of dog day dinners, here in hot, hot HOT and sunny Hell Central Texas.

Farm fresh produce from Johnson's Backyard Garden
Recently at the Texas Farmers' Markets, I prepared a few versions of a Summer Melon Salad which is as filling as a main entree as it is delightful as a side. Market farmers are bursting at the seams with melons of all kinds, and this dish can be made with any of your favorites, or a combination of several. Crenshaw melons, cantaloupe, honeydew-- all are great choices. I keep a few of the small Korean melons around the house to toss into smoothies, create granitas, or enjoy a chilled half, simply, with a sprinkle of salt and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar or a scoop of homemade cottage cheese. It's cool, it's easy, and it's perfect.

If I'm hungry for a little more excitement and variety in my bowl, I'll throw together salty, spicy, sweet, sour, herbal, and crunchy textures in a quick salad, dressed lightly with a few of my favorite market vendor flavors. If I'm feeling carnivorous, I'll toss in the sublimely salty punch of Belle Vie Farm duck prosciutto-- you can find that recipe here, or perhaps occasionally find the saline tang of homemade feta cheese to be a great addition.

More often than not, though, in this heat, I prefer a vegan version to keep things light and aid with digestion. I dress this particular salad with another digestive-- ginger, in the form of SoCo Ginger Beer. I combine that with a slow, thin drizzle of Texas Hill Country Olive Company balsamic vinegar, and enjoy a combination of rich and lively flavors without animal products, fat, artificial additives, or a sweat storm of a hot kitchen. Boom! Summer-perfect.

1 summer melon, peeled, seeded, cubed
1 red onion, small, halved, sliced thinly
1 small pickling, Persian, or English cucumber (no wax), halved lengthwise, sliced thin crosswise
1 bunch basil, de-stemmed, leaves chopped small
5 small shishito peppers, de-stemmed, de-seeded, minced
1 cup SoCo Ginger Beer, honey orange
cracked black pepper & kosher salt
Texas Hill Country Olive Company blackberry balsamic vinegar

Toss the melon, onion, cucumber, basil, and shishito peppers in a large bowl. Pour ginger beer over all. Toss lightly. Season to taste with pepper and salt. Cover and chill for 15 minutes or more.

Remove from the refrigerator and toss again. Plate individually. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over salad in a light stream, correct seasonings as necessary, and serve.

Meet me at the markets next, on Saturday, August 5, and Sunday, August 6, 2017, for a fresh taste of the seasonal best farmers and artisans have to offer at Texas Farmers' Markets Lakeline and Mueller, in Austin.

Disclosure: I work as a contract market chef for Texas Farmers' Markets, and the food provided for chef demos is given free of charge for promotion.

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