Summertime is a time for being outside and hanging out with friends and family. It is not a time for slaving over a hot stove. Who needs it to be any hotter than it already is? Luckily, summer is also a time when gardens and farmers’ markets are exploding with great produce that requires little else than a bit of chopping and a dash of salt for eating.
Brandon and I love August, because it means heirloom tomatoes and sweet stone fruits, and last summer, I shared one of our very favorite recipes using just those two ingredients. This summer, we’ve happened upon another foolproof dish using one of this season’s best ingredients, and to be honest, not one I’ve ever been fond of: melon. I’ve always found melon to be cloyingly sweet and unpleasant to eat, but when it’s drizzled in mint-infused balsamic vinegar and wrapped in prosciutto, its deliciousness cannot be denied.
Another score for no-cook summer salads: they’re easy to pack for picnics and brown bag lunches. Like Rosemary mentioned in her recipe for wild rice salad, packed lunches can get monotonous, so why not spice them up with an unexpected salad?
Lastly, these recipes are great for brunching and entertaining. Guests will be surprised that you can pair peaches with tomatoes and ham with melon. And to really kick it up a notch, serve your salads with an easy, but refreshing summer cocktail, like a Negroni—our unofficial cocktail of summer 2012. It’s bright red color and citrusy flavor is a great way to get a party started.
Prosciutto and Melon Salad
Adapted from a recipe from Epicurious.com
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves, plus coarsely chopped mint for garnish
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 8 1/2-inch-thick wedges of seeded and peeled honeydew melon, cantaloupe, or galia melon (This is what we used. Brandon is a sucker for any sort of hybrid fruit—like the pluot—and found this mix between a honeydew and cantaloupe. Why choose when you can have both?)
- 8 thin slices of prosciutto (about 4 ounces)
- In a small dish, combine the vinegar, the minced mint, and the sugar. Stir and let the mixture sit for 30 minutes. Then, force it through a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl, pressing hard on the mint leaves to get all of the liquid out. Discard the mint.
- Arrange melon wedges on a plate and drizzle each slice with some of the vinegar mixture. Drape each slice of melon with a slice of the prosciutto and sprinkle chopped mint on top.
- Yields 4 servings.
Makes 2 drinks
- 2 ounces Campari
- 2 ounces sweet vermouth
- 2 ounces gin
- 1 orange
- Combine the Campari, gin, and vermouth in a shaker with a handful of ice. Shake and strain into two chilled glasses (can be served up or on the rocks).
- Garnish with a regular orange twist, or get fancy and try a burnt orange twist (see below).
Burnt Orange Twist
“NOTE: To make burnt orange, cut a fairly thick sliver of rind and hold it orange side down about five inches above the mixed drink. With your free hand, light a match and position the flame midway between rind and drink. Squeeze the rind. The oil from the rind will pass through the flame, creating a display of sparks, and settle over the drink, giving it a pleasing burnt-orange accent.” – The New York Times