A Gift of a Salad: Preserved Lemon and Cantaloupe Salad

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A few months ago I went to an inspiring travel-writing workshop given by Necee Regis, organized by MAD About Words. (Check out the ever-informative, ever-uplifting and ever-amusing Beyond the Margins, a blog about writing that Necee contributes to.)

Necee led us through several exercises, such as writing down the sights, sounds, tastes, smells and touches of a place we’d traveled to. A sample from my chosen destination: mountains covered in morning mist, Nickel Creek harmonizing with the crackle of logs in the fire pit, the bitter flavour of char from a wiener just pulled off a stick, a waft of coffee waking me up, a cozy corduroy blanket soft on my lap as a fire warms my cheeks.

I learned a lot that day and even left with a little piece of writing of which I am quite proud. It needs a bit of editing but I am seriously considering sending it to a local travel magazine in the near future. I’ll let you know if and when I do.

Beyond leaving with inspiration and some words in my notebook, I also left having made a new friend, Julie. Turns out Julie is a budding food, travel and mommy writer as well. She came over last week for an afternoon visit and I was delighted to learn that she has started her own blog From Garden to Gastronomy. How fun to have a blogging pal nearby!

What’s even more fun than having a blogging pal nearby???

Having a blogging pal nearby who brings you food. Yup, that’s right. Julie showed up with food for me (I think she might become my best friend). She brought a little jar of homemade preserved lemons.

I’d had preserved lemons in restaurant dishes before but I’d never had a jar of them to taste on their own or to experiment with in my kitchen. Let me tell you, they are probably the  most exciting thing to enter my fridge in months. They have a sunshiny lemon flavor, of course, but with less sourness and with an added depth of briny saltiness that conjures up a family of lemons on a seaside holiday.

That salty brininess reminded me of olives so I decided to first try them in a simple salad. I served the first version of this salad alongside some couscous and fig and red wine braised short ribs (I’ll share that recipe another day).

The salad was so refreshing and interesting that I made more of it for my lunch the next day, this time with the addition of feta cheese. The result is like the recently popular feta and watermelon combo out on a date with a classic Greek salad. Oh geez, now I need to go make and eat more of it right now! I think I’m hooked on preserved lemons. Thanks Julie!

Preserved Lemon and Cantaloupe Salad

 

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Serves 1 but can be doubled, tripled, etc..

  • 2 cups greens (I like half spinach and half arugula, a.k.a. rocket)
  • 10 fresh mint leaves, bigger ones torn in half by hand
  • 2 tbsp thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/4 cup of cantaloupe chunks in 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1 ounce feta cheese in big smeary crumbles
  • 1 tsp brine from preserved lemons*
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 10 thin slices of preserved lemon rind chopped into 1/4-inch pieces*
  • a few coarse grinds of black pepper

Toss the greens and mint leaves together on a dinner plate. Top with the onion, cantaloupe and feta. Drizzle with the brine and olive oil. Sprinkle on the preserved lemon pieces and then grind on the pepper. Eat! Try to get a little bit of everything together on the first bite. You’ll get a crazy-good blast of salt and sour balanced by sweet melon and mint. O.K., now I’m totally not kidding. I have to go make more of this RIGHT NOW!

*I’m not sure if you can find these jars of sunshine in regular grocery stores. Mine definitely doesn’t have them. I once bought a large jar of them for my father-in-law while at the Bermondsey Farmers’ market in London. I seriously considered smuggling them home in my suitcase but was unsure of the legalities. If you don’t live near Bermondsey Market, you can try ordering the lemons online from igourmet here. I don’t think they ship to Canada. Anyone have a good source for our Northern friends?

Or, make your own: Here’s a recipe for homemade preserved lemons from Chez Panisse Fruit by Alice Waters via 101 Cookbooks. I’ll see if Julie can share the recipe she used with us too. They are too darned good!

Chris from Cook the Story

Where stories that make you drool are better than those that don't!

(c) 2011 Christine Pittman. All Rights Reserved

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