Melon and marinated shallots

In the refined region of Reggio Emilia, the appearance of the orange-fleshed cantaloupe is a sure sign of summer. Slices of sweet  fragrant melon combined with salty prosciutto crudo are served in the local trattorie surrounding the hills of Parma.

The perfume of ripe cantaloupe goes hand in hand with crisp white table cloths draped over long tables situated in the shade of ancient buildings. The gentle clatter of silverware against plates intermingle with the echo of conversations forming the background to open air summer lunch.

The classic antipasto ‘prosciutto e melone’ was the impulse for the creation of a salad composed of bright melon, crunchy marinated shallots, crushed pink peppers, threads of fresh chives and ruby-red juicy raspberries. My recipe juxtaposes sweet and sour with aromatic herb and spice.

Ingredients

  • one cantaloupe melon
  • 100 grams fresh raspberries
  • two small shallots
  • 75 grams white wine vinegar
  • twelve sprigs of fresh chives
  • five grams pink pepper corns
  • a pinch of Himalaya salt or sea salt
  • a drizzle of honey if so desired

Peel the shallots, cutting them wafer-thin. Put the shallots in a small bowl, adding the white wine vinegar and a sprinkling of salt.. Allow the shallots to marinate at least thirty minutes, until they color to pale pink. Crush the pink peppers with a pestle and mortar. Tear the chives into sizable ribbons. Set both aside.

Wash the cantaloupe melon in cool water. Cut the melon open and scoop out the seeds. Hollow out the melon halves with a tablespoon, arranging the pieces of fruit onto a platter, scattering the pink pepper over the melon.

Taste the shallots marinated in vinegar, adding a bit of honey for sweetness if so desired. Spoon the shallots over the melon, drizzling half the vinegar marinade over the cantaloupe. Arrange the fresh raspberries on the platter and top the salad off with the fresh chives. Pour the remaining shallot marinade into a dipping bowl and complement it with a small serving of light, fruity olive oil. Serve the salad immediately at a long table dressed with a white tablecloth.

♦  Suggested combinations
This simple union of ingredients makes for a beautiful appetizer in itself. The salad complements fresh cheeses made of goat’s milk as well as the Italian buffalo milk mozzarella, or creamy burrata. The freshness of the melon with raspberries is a perfect match for grilled pink fish, like wild salmon or shrimp from the Mediterranean.

♦  Notes
Make the melon and pink pepper salad the center piece of a summer buffet, adding yellow tomatoes with fresh marjoram and a platter of grilled zucchini to complete the picture.

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