This muskmelon and feta salad might be my favourite salad of all time (a tall claim considering how I feel about a Thai mango salad). As much as I like the more popular watermelon version, there’s just something about muskmelon here that gives it that substantial heft that you don’t seem to get from the diluted flavour and porous texture of watermelon. I started replacing it with muskmelon and now hardly make it with watermelon anymore. The perfectly balanced combination of sweetness (melon), tartness (cranberries), acidity (pickled onions and lemon dressing) and saltiness (feta) is what really draws me to it.
The salad comes together in minutes, if that, but they call for quick-pickled onions which benefit from a bit of steeping time. 30 minutes is good enough, so make this first and then assemble the salad later. It can be made up to 2 weeks in advance though and let me tell you, once you have some pickled onions in the fridge, you will end up strewing it over everything. It’s turned me into a real pickle fiend.
The pickling itself couldn’t be easier: you chop an onion into thin slivers and toss with lemon juice and salt. Steep them for a bit in this briny liquid. The salt draws out the moisture and softens the onions, while the lemon juice and salt in conjunction temper their sharp burn. As if these onions didn’t have enough going for them already, the pickling juice also gets used as the dressing here. Oh, oh, and the onions turn a vibrant pink too – perfect to eat and beautiful to look at.
Dried cranberries are a bit of a wild card ingredient in this recipe. A few go a long way to add an extra dimension of that sweet-tart flavour in every mouthful. I realized the other day that I end up tinkering and tweaking my own recipes more than any other recipe I see/read about. It’s not often that I won’t change up ingredients/quantities/ratios/all of the above. But sometimes you just arrive at that perfect combination and with just the right proportions of everything. This salad is that for me. I wouldn’t change a thing. (Having said that, please taste and adjust based on what suits your palette.) Eat it right away, at room temp, or make in advance and serve it fridge-cold (my preference). Either way, it’s the ideal salad for the impending Chennai heat that’s almost upon us.
MUSKMELON AND FETA SALAD
- 3 cups of ripe muskmelon
- 100 grams feta cheese
- 2 tablespoons dried cranberries
- 2 tablespoons mint leaves, chopped
- 1 medium onion, sliced into thin slivers
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Quick-pickled onions: toss the slivered onions with lemon juice and salt. Let it sit for 30 mins. This can be made and refrigerated up to 2 weeks in advance.
- Chop the muskmelon into bite-sized cubes. Toss with dried cranberries, half the feta (crumble it into chunky bits with your hands), and mint leaves.
- Add the pickled onions and half the pickling juices to the salad. Toss it all together and taste. Add more juice if you think it needs it.
- Crumble over the rest of the feta and serve cold or at room temperature.
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