I can’t, in good conscience, call this recipe a dud. I can’t call it a success either. I almost bagged the post, throwing it in the trash along with the leftover salad. But, after thinking it over, I realized that the dudliness of this Thai-inspired cantaloupe salad was based on a lot of variables.
First of all, when I was planning dinner for Tuesday night, I (silly me) forgot to decide upon (or shop for) the main dish part of the meal to which this would be a side. I don’t know, maybe I was figuring that a cantaloupe salad would be enough to satisfy Jim’s and my anxious and hungry stomachs after a long day of work. Maybe I thought that we had miraculously turned into starving waifs, though I can’t make out anything “Mary-Kate Olsen” about me when I look in the mirror, and once I got home and began to prepare dinner, Jim knocked me (metaphorically) upside the head and decided to go out for some sandwiches to compliment my pretty, but not so satisfying salad. I forgot to explain the salad’s flavors to him—sweet, spicy, umami, and he came home with steak and provolone on brioche; sandwiches that were undeniably tasty, but did not at all go with my creation.
Secondly, jalapeno is one of the ingredients. If you work with jalapeno often, you know that every one differs from the next. Kind of like a snowflake, but it burns your tongue instead of cooling it.
The jalapeno that I used was searing. It completely overwhelmed the subtle basil flavor and heightened the sweetness to cloying. I had to add some heavy cream to cut the heat but after a few very tasty, nuanced bites, the spicy-factor overwhelmed the cream and it became too hot again.
And finally, since I had burned my fingers dicing the jalapeno (I will remember to by gloves, I will) and then burned my eyes when I rubbed my fingers in them (yes, I am that stupid) I wasn’t in the mood for any more spiciness. I stopped eating after a bite or two and declared the recipe a dud.
But it would be silly to think that. Just because I wasn’t feeling it, doesn’t mean you won’t. Maybe my spicy-tolerance is way lower than I thought and I really am a weeny. Maybe you’ll get your hands on a mellower jalapeno. I did have a few wonderfully complex bites and if the spiciness factor was decreased I’m sure that complexity would shine. An ya’know, it comes from The Splendid Table, and Lynn Rossetto Kasper’s never let me down before.
So I urge you to go ahead and try this recipe while cantaloupes are still ripe and good. If I try it again, it’ll be with a char-grilled steak or burger or with some crispy-skinned salmon. Just don’t rub your eyes after dicing the jalapeno!!
Thai Cantaloupe Salad with Chile
- 1 medium to large ripe, fragrant cantaloupe, peeled, seeded, and cut into bite-sized chunks
- 1 tablespoon fine-diced seeded green jalapeno
- 1/2 cup stacked and thin-sliced fresh Thai, Cinnamon, Spicy Globe, or regular basil leaves*
- 3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 drops Asian fish sauce
- Generous pinch of sugar
- Salt and pepper
In a mixing bowl, gently combine the melon, jalapeno, and basil. One at a time, add the remaining ingredients, tasting as you add each one. Set out in a bowl with long bamboo skewers so diners can spear chuncks of melon to eat.
*I used regular, but imagine Thai would make things even more complex.
You can also satisfy your fruitiness with: