This salad is something special. The combination of ripe melon, fresh mint and allspice is genius. The addition of a simple syrup “marinade” takes it to the next level, making for a real fruit salad instead of just flavored melon. I stole this idea from the catering company that I worked at over the last few weeks, falling in love with the fresh summery feel of this side. I made this for guests recently and served it alongside minty lamb chops (fruit salad does not have to be dessert!) and I it went over very well. I’m pretty sure that every time I buy a cantaloupe from now on, this is how I’ll prepare it.
I grew up eating Cantaloupe and for me, it’s quintessentially summer. I remember my Mom coming home with a giant American-sized melon, spending ten minutes in the kitchen cutting it into bite-sized cubes and throwing them into a bowl. That was really all that needed to be done. The flesh is so perfectly sweet and juicy that Cantaloupe was not an ingredient, but a meal in itself. This dish isn’t much different. While you do have to turn on your stovetop to make the simple syrup, it’s all about enhancing the natural flavors of the melon. A bit of fresh mint, a touch of spice and just a tiny bit of added sugar really make this the perfect summer side, or light dessert.
Ingredients (Serves 6):
2 small Cantaloupes (in France they’re slightly larger than a very big grapefruit… I would say half a melon in America)
1/4 C sugar
1 C water
1 1-inch knob of ginger, washed and sliced thinly (optional)
1/4 C fresh mint
1 t allspice
Begin by making your simple syrup. Place sugar and water (and ginger, if using) in a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally to help incorporate the sugar. Simmer until the syrup has reduced by about half. Remove the ginger if using, set aside until cool.
In a large bowl, add the simple syrup and the minced mint leaves (don’t chop them, you want ribbons). Cut the melon into bite-sized pieces and place it in the bowl on top of the mint. You want the mint to be fully covered by syrup and melon so that it won’t turn brown before you serve the salad. Sprinkle the melon with allspice and place in the fridge for 1-2 hours before serving. Simply stir it all together and you’re good to go!