What you see is pretty much what you get here. Not the first thing you imagine when someone says "fruit salad," here sweet cantaloupe is paired with fresh jalapeno, which is tempered a bit by cucumber, mint, and a drizzle of chilled coconut milk. Entirely refreshing and a fine showcase for a good melon, this salad makes a wonderful late-summer side dish or even light breakfast (if you don't mind early-morning heat).
This is a simple one to throw together, but does require a fair amount of chopping, which we embrace as a real joy with a dish like this. Cooking involves all the senses, and chopping a variety of fresh foods provides scents and textures that can be a terrific pick-me-up after a long day. Go slow, soak in the colors and fragrances, but remember to toss on some gloves when handling hot peppers. And, naturally, if you're sensitive to spicy foods, make sure you remove all bits of vein from the jalapeno, and feel free to use a smaller quantity of minced pepper.
Fiery Cantaloupe-Cucumber Salad
1 medium cantaloupe, halved and seeded
2 medium cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise, and seeded
1 medium jalapeno pepper, halved lengthwise, seeded and de-veined
10 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped (from a couple sprigs, about 1 TBSP chopped)
juice of half a lime (about 1 TBSP)
1/2 cup full-fat canned coconut milk, chilled
Cut each cantaloupe half into quarters, place each chunk on its flat cut end, and carefully cut the rind away. Chop flesh into bite-size dice (about 1 inch) and transfer to a serving bowl.
Chop the cucumber into small dice (about 1/4 inch) and add to the serving bowl. Mince the jalapeno, finely chop the mint, add to the serving bowl, and toss well to combine. The jalapeno will be assertive at this point, but mellows a bit with the addition of dressing.
In a small bowl, stir together lime juice, coconut milk, and salt. It will taste fairly tart, but the lime juice will mellow once diffused through the salad.
Spoon salad into individual dishes, serve with coconut-lime mixture at the table, drizzled on individually, to taste. The salad can be served immediately or held for a couple of hours to allow the flavors to mingle. It keeps, refrigerated in an airtight container, for a day or two.