Wednesday, July 11, 2012

they ate them in the fields

My dad once told me about how he and one of his brothers would eat melons in the fields when they were working – or supposed to be working - on their farm in West Texas when they were teenagers. I’ve never eaten them quite that fresh, but melons of all kinds are a hot commodity around here. We go through a small watermelon almost every day this time of year, and quite a few cantaloupes too. Sometimes the table conversation trends toward who’ll get the last slice; whose slice is bigger/thicker/juicier. (On worse days, talking devolves to grabbing and shouting.)

It was the mention of melon that compelled me to tear the recipe out of a magazine over a decade ago that has become my best summer salad.

Chicken Salad with Melon, Feta and Greens
Adapted from a recipe published in Food & Wine August 2000 by Joyce Goldstein

Be sure to use the best possible ingredients - a good feta, a nice olive oil. If the melon doesn't evoke summer in smell and taste, fuggedaboutit.

Serve with a loaf of crusty bread.

1/2 cup walnut halves
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup coarsely chopped mint, plus 1/3 cup small mint leaves
2/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar1/2 teaspoon sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (6 to 8 ounces each), pounded 1/2 inch thick
1 ripe cantaloupe (2 pounds), cut into 1-inch chunks
3/4 pound feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
3 bunches (about 18 ounces) watercress or other salad greens

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until golden and fragrant.

In a small saucepan, combine the lemon juice with the chopped mint. Cook over high heat just until the mint is wilted, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let it steep for 10 minutes. Strain the lemon juice into a small bowl and discard the mint. Whisk the olive oil, vinegar and sugar into the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil in a large skillet. Season the pounded chicken breasts with salt and pepper, add to the skillet – 2 at a time - and cook over medium heat until golden and just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the cooked chicken to a cutting board. Add the remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil to the skillet, and cook the remaining chicken. Thinly slice the cooked chicken across the grain.

Put the greens in a large bowl, add the remaining mint leaves and toss with some of the vinaigrette, to taste. Divide the salad greens between 6 plates. Arrange the melon, chicken, walnuts and feta on top of the greens, and drizzle with a bit more vinaigrette. Serve immediately.

Yield: 6 servings

Note: Any leftover dressing will keep, covered and chilled, for up to a week.


Tracy said...

I find myself wanting this for breakfast. Btw, your banner is truly mesmerizing. You have a gift.

Lecia said...

Thanks so much, Tracy.

Francesca said...

we only eat melons one way: prosciutto (parma ham) and melon!

coco said...

your work is a great inspiration to me.
makes me want to get up now to kitchen for cooking. thanks. Great photo and cooking! love it.