Finding a good melon means answering some questions: How heavy is it relative to its companions in the bin? Can you catch a whiff of if its perfume right there at the market? Was it picked under-ripe and shipped a distance? Get the right answers and you’ll be rewarded with a tender, juicy fruit that smells and tastes like summer, but a smidge sturdier and restrained than, say, a perfectly ripe peach. (The heavier, the sweeter; it should have an amazing scent even before you cut it; hard melons ship well but may never fully ripen.) Use a large farmers’ market slicing cucumber and don’t bother peeling it (unless it’s waxed), and don’t peel the cantaloupe either. Both will make your prep quicker. Layer melon with slices of cooling cucumber and avocado, and fiery, briny, sweet-sour red chile pepper for a lush yet light summer meal. No question.
|½||teaspoon salt, and more to taste|
|⅓||cup white balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar|
|2||fresno (red) chiles, sliced into thin rings|
|½||large ripe cantaloupe, halved and cut into ¼-inch slices|
|1||medium cucumber, thinly sliced|
|Grated rind and juice of 1 lime|
|2||tablespoons olive oil|
|4||ounces sheep's milk feta, cut into ¼-inch slices|
|Honey (for sprinkling)|
|¼||cup fresh cilantro leaves|
|Black pepper, to taste|
1. In a bowl, stir together the sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, and vinegar. Add the chiles. (This can be done up to a day ahead of time; cover and refrigerate until ready to use).
2. On a large platter, arrange the melon slices in clusters. Sprinkle with salt. Add clusters of cucumber and sprinkle with salt again.
3. Halve the avocado, remove the pit, and use a spoon the size of the avocado half to slide between the flesh and skin; lift out the flesh in one piece. Set the halves, flat sides down, on a cutting board and slice them into ¼-inch pieces; sprinkle with half the lime juice. Add to the platter in clusters.
4. Sprinkle the salad with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Tuck slices of the feta into the platter and sprinkle with the lime rind and remaining lime juice. Add the pickled chiles (leave most of the seeds behind in the bowl), a sprinkle of honey, and cilantro leaves. Finish with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and a few grinds of black pepper.