Savory Melon Salad with Sparkling Lambrusco

summer melon salad and white wine pairing

The Dish

Sweltering hot mid-August temperatures call for no-effort, no-heat recipes. But don’t let the high humidity and in-season melons make you fall into the boring fruit salad trap. Instead, start a meal with a refreshing – but savory – melon and veg salad that brings acidity, brightness, and saltiness to the best of the best in season fruits like cantaloupe, watermelon, and honeydew. A seamless combo is cantaloupe and cucumber (honeydew would be great with the cukes as well, but I opted for cantaloupe for some color variation).

I couldn’t decide which direction to lean when crafting this melon salad – more Mediterranean and minty-fresh, or bring in more heat and umami with chili flakes and Parmesan?

summer melon salad with white wine pairing

Both worked, so I included a “recipe” for both. This salad is so simple I struggle to call it a recipe – and that’s exactly what you need for the lazy days of August when you’d rather just be laying by the pool than hovering over the stove.

The ‘Minty + Fresh’ version calls for fresh mint and feta – possibly the most refreshing salad I’ve ever eaten. You can practically feel the hydration happening from crunching into the juicy cucumbers and melons, and followed by the cooling effect of the mint.

The ‘Hot + Savory’ version was partially inspired by the classic prosciutto & melon combo. I wanted to achieve that same idea without meat, and thought freshly shaved Parmesan was the way to bring in the salty, umami component to the juicy and sweet cantaloupe. Add in some arugula and chili flakes for some peppery spice and you get a very satiating, savory profile that is balanced by the lightness of the melon and cucumber.

summer melon salad recipe with wine pairing

The Wine

When keeping the food chill, you gotta opt for an equally refreshing wine. Nothing beats a chilled sparkler, but before you reach for a Champagne or Prosecco, consider a sparkling white Lambrusco. I do love a classic red Lambrusco for a summer wine as well, but the lightness of this salad and the alarmingly high temps (hottest summer on record, people) plead for white.

sparkling white wine

This bottle from La Collina Lunaris Secco will be a talking piece for your guests not only because of the flavor – honeycomb, candied orange peel, golden raisins, and a bread-y, yeast-y funk – but also because of the story behind it.

This biodynamic wine (click here to read my post about what a biodynamic wine is) made at the La Collina Lunaris Secco winery in Italy, a co-op that focuses on producing wine while helping recovering drug addicts. The vineyard doubles as a community for those in their second phase of recovery. Through working on the vineyard and with others in the community, recovering addicts gain professional and social skills to help them re-integrate into normal life after rehab. How amazing is that?

Of course, purchasing their wine helps keep their business and beneficial program going so this is a wine that you can drink and feel good about. If you can find it, snag it. For those in Charlotte, NC – it’s always easy to find at Bond Street Wines.

Print
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Savory Cucumber and Melon Salad

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 people 1x
  • Category: Appetizer
  • Cuisine: American, Italian, Mediterranean

Description

The combination of cucumber and cantaloupe is crisp, crunchy, and refreshing. Bring them together in a light, floral vinaigrette, fresh herbs, and a salty cheese. Wash it down with a sparkling white Lambrusco.


Ingredients

Scale

Hot + Savory

  • 1 whole cantaloupe
  • 1 whole English hothouse cucumber
  • 0.5 oz arugula
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro ((to be added to vinaigrette))
  • a dash of chili flakes and coriander ((to be added to vinaigrette))
  • freshly shredded Parmesan cheese ((to taste))

Minty + Fresh

  • 1 whole cantaloupe
  • 1 whole English hothouse cucumber
  • 2 tbsp crumbled Feta
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint ((to be added to vinaigrette))
  • a dash of cardamom and coriander ((to be added to vinaigrette))

Vinaigrette

  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp champagne vinegar ((or any light, white wine vinegar) )
  • salt and pepper ((to taste))

Instructions

Salad

  1. Dice whole cantaloupe into chunks, roughly half an inch thick. Make sure size is consistent.
  2. Chop cucumber into half inch chunks. Any size or thickness is fine, so long as the melon and the cucumbers are approximately the same size.

Vinaigrette

  1. Mix champagne vinegar and olive oil with herbs and seasonings. Bada boom bada bing, you have your vinaigrette.

Plating

  1. For the hot + savory version, put your arugula on the plate as a base.
  2. Toss cucumber and cantaloupe with vinaigrette to evenly coat. Put on plate.
  3. Drizzle on any remaining vinaigrette.
  4. Sprinkle feta or shave Parmesan on top to your hearts desire. Serve!

Notes

This salad is best served C O L D.  Don’t refrigerate the cantaloupe whole, but planning ahead to put the chopped chunks of cantaloupe and cucumber in the fridge for an hour before preparing is a good move.  Feel free to adjust the ratios of herbs and seasonings to your taste.  

Keywords: savory melon salad, cucumber, melon, cantaloupe, parmesan, arugula, summer salad, champagne vinegar, lambrusco

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