My summer vacation.
Recipe: Cantaloupe Salad with Speck, Mozzarella, and Sweet Marsala Vinaigrette
It’s cantaloupe time again in Manhattan. Don’t ignore them. They’re big, but they’re uniquely delicious. Cats even like them. Think salt instead of sweet, and you’re on the right track.
Everybody’s Italian grandfather, including mine, salted his cantaloupe. Peppered it sometimes, too. That brings up its flavor like no sweet thing can, which of course, is why cantaloupe is often paired with prosciutto. With that brilliant pairing in mind, I decided to fashion a composed salad using some of my favorite Italian ingredients.
I chose Speck instead of prosciutto because its more rugged structure and slight smokiness stand up better to a vinaigrette (prosciutto will get soft and flabby while sitting in vinegar). You could also use a soppressata cut into thin matchsticks. Then I added bocconcini mozzarella and grape tomatoes. I melon-balled the cantaloupe in an effort to extend the salad’s round theme . I padded it with frisée lettuce (you could use chicory), some basil (mint or tarragon would also be good), and a few other savories, tossing it all with a Marsala vinaigrette. Black olives might have been nice with this as well, but I didn’t include them, thinking they might tilt the salad into the category of overload (maybe I’ll try using the olives in place of the Speck next time). I think the results are voluptuous. I really hope you’ll like it as much as I do.
I’ll be on vacation this week, not on the Italian Riviera, where I believe Sophia and Jean-Paul were cruising, but on Rhode Island, which I suppose is a kind of Italian-American Riviera. (I think Rhode Island has the highest percentage of Italians of any state. Or maybe Connecticut does. Actually, I just looked it up. New Jersey ranks first, then Connecticut, then Rhode Island, and then New York.) Well, in any case, there are lots of Italians up there running seaside fish restaurants, and I’m going to make sure I get to a few of them (fried fish is tops on my list for summer dining). I’ll also do some research on Rhode Island oysters and summer produce and come up with a few good recipes for you. See you next week.
Cantaloupe Salad with Speck, Mozzarella, and Sweet Marsala Vinaigrette
(Serves 4 as a first course or a lunch dish)
For the vinaigrette:
¼ cup sweet Marsala
1 tablespoon Spanish sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
For the salad:
1 small cantaloupe, scooped out with a melon baller
1 pint grape tomatoes
About a dozen bocconicini mozzarellas
¼ pound Speck, cut into thin strips
1 large bunch frisée lettuce, ripped into pieces
1 shallot, thinly sliced
A handful of basil leaves
To make the vinaigrette, pour the Marsala into a small saucepan, and boil it over high heat until you have about a tablespoon. Let it cool for a few minutes. Then whisk in the sherry vinegar and the olive oil, and season with salt and black pepper.
Place all the ingredients for the salad in a large salad bowl. Pour on the vinaigrette, and toss gently. Serve right away.