A Fresh Take on Fruit Salad
by Peggy Paul Casella
Welcome to the sweetest time of the year, when bins of fragrant, bowling-ball-size melons crowd farmers market stalls and grocery store displays. Though you may think they belong to the botanical family their name suggests, watermelons come from a completely different genus—Citrullus—and are actually classified as large pepos or “false” berries.
Cantaloupes and honeydews, on the other hand, are muskmelon varieties belonging to the Cucumis genus, characterized by their dense flesh, central seed cavity and thick skin. But botanical differences aside, it’s the similarities in flavor and applications that bind these three late-summer fruits together.
Nothing beats chomping into a thick slice of chilled cantaloupe, honeydew or watermelon, letting those sweet juices dribble down your chin while you savor each sweet, refreshing bite. And their easily chopped flesh makes a pretty trio of red, orange and green in classic, seasonal fruit salads.
Choose cantaloupes and honeydew melons that are heavy for their size, have a sweet, floral or fruity aroma, and give slightly to pressure at their blossom ends (or “belly buttons”). Choose watermelons that are symmetrical in shape, rich in color and hollow-sounding when slapped on the side. Unlike cantaloupes and honeydew melons, watermelons should not yield to pressure; avoid any with soft spots.
Grilled Melon Salad with Mint and Feta
Makes 8 to 10 servings
- 1 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
- 1 medium cantaloupe or honeydew melon (or 1/2 of each), seeds scooped out, flesh cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/2 small seedless watermelon, flesh cut into 1-inch cubes
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices (optional)
- Juice of 1 ½ limes
- 12 to 18 fresh mint leaves
- 4 ounces block feta, crumbled (about 1 cup)
- Flaked sea salt
- Heat your grill to high and brush the grate with oil.
- Thread the cubed melon on skewers (presoaked if wooden). Brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brush the onion slices with olive oil, too, if using, and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.
- Using long-handled tongs, place the onion slices (if using) and the melon skewers on the grill. Cook onions until they are charred on both sides, 10 to 12 minutes. Melons should take less time to char.
- Roll up the mint leaves and slice them crosswise into thin strips. Add them to the bowl, along with the lime juice and crumbled feta. Season with a pinch or two of flaky sea salt. Toss well and serve.
Peggy Paul Casella is a cookbook editor, writer, urban vegetable gardener, produce peddler and author of the blog Thursday Night Pizza.