Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Weird Recipe Wednesday: Spicy Cucumber-Cantaloupe Salad

Weird Recipe Wednesday: Because some recipes are so weird I just HAVE to try them.  My curiosity always gets the better of me.

A year ago I never would have believed jalapenos would frequent my kitchen.  I was a wimp for spicy foods and and considered even mild salsa too hot.  Somewhere along the way I ventured past my Minnesota roots and started trying recipes with jalapenos and other spicy ingredients.  This opened a whole new realm of possibilities to excite my palate.  Fortunately for me, my family isn't too sold on the idea, so I had this flavor-packed salad all to myself.

All that being said, this dish isn't overly spicy.  Heat from the jalapeno is balanced cool, refreshing mint.  Sweet, juicy melon collides with cool, crisp cucumbers.  Ginger and lime add a bright burst of flavor that screams summer.

For once, I actually made a recipe less weird.  The first version of this recipe called for fish sauce and the next version I looked at used soy sauce.  I have an entire bottle of fish sauce, but it's still full for a reason.  Fish sauce just isn't my thing, and soy sauce didn't seem right either.  I tried a few different options and finally settled on rice vinegar.  If you don't have rice vinegar, try apple cider vinegar or additional fresh lime juice.

 A ripe, juicy cantaloupe is essential for this recipe.  The soft flesh contrasts the crunch of the cucumber and the sweetness cuts the heat from the jalapeno.  A crunchy, under-ripe melon just won't do.  The best indicator of a ripe cantaloupe is it's aroma.  Sniff uncut cantaloupe and select the melon with the sweetest fragrance.

When chopping the jalapeno, wear gloves or wash your hands immediately afterwords. I always, always, always forget to do this.  It's like I think I'm invincible, "oh, I'll be fine, it can't burn that much." The initial bites of this salad are sweet and juicy, then heat from the jalapeno kicks in and lingers.  The same principle applies to cutting the pepper.  You may not feel the burn straight from the cutting board, but later on you'll wish you weren't quite as confident.  The jalapeno always wins, and trust me, do NOT rub your eyes.  I finally got that part down!

Spicy Cucumber-Cantaloupe Salad
slightly adapted from Everyday Food

5 cups cubed cantaloupe (1/2 of a large melon)
3 cups seeded, diced cucumber
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, torn

*In a large bowl, combine cantaloupe, cucumber and jalapeno.
* In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, rice vinegar, ginger and mint leaves. Pour over salad and toss to coat.

Food for Thought: "It's not the future that you're afraid of. It's repeating the past that make you anxious." -unknown

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