Sunday, July 26, 2015

here's a mouthful: melon-avocado-arugula salad with crispy prosciutto and maple-balsamic vinaigrette

Sunday, July 26, 2015

About six months ago, I stumbled across How Sweet It Is, another popular food blog in the seemingly endless sea of food blogs.  I think it might have been through a link on a fashion website that I halfheartedly follow, hoping that I might get the tiniest bit of inspiration for my lonely wardrobe.

I have a type, I think, when it comes to food blogs.  At the risk of sounding completely self-righteous and food-snobby, I would say that I gravitate most towards the whole food/organic/farm fresh sites.  There are usually lots of perfectly shot photos of fresh hauls from farmer's market, captured in only the light of a golden afternoon sun.  Kale and farro are ubiquitous.  Most of my favorites are also quite heavy on the writing.  Each post is a thoughtful essay rather than just a glossy recipe.  I actually spend time reading posts from years ago on Orangette or The Wednesday Chef, just for the pure pleasure of it. 

How Sweet is not like those blogs.  It's bold and brash, unapologetically about food, glorious food.  Against a background accented with candy-colored shades of pastel pink and blue, its author, Jessica Merchant, raves with great enthusiasm about her latest successful dishes, sharing up close and personal photos of plates bursting with decadence and color.  These aren't the oat scone and bulgur salads that I tend to read about most of the time.  Bourbon and chocolate are heavily featured.  A month ago there was a recipe for strawberry buttermilk sprinkle donuts. This week I can't tear myself away from the post about havarti and arugula grilled cheese with herbed butter and SMOKY BACON JAM.  

I didn't want to admit how much I liked this new blog and Jessica's whimsical musings about cocktails and television shows.  I felt much more virtuous (and more like myself, to be honest) when I whipped up a batch of Megan Gordon's coconut cookies or returned to my tried-and-true Molly Wizenberg scone recipe.  After reading the description of the first cookbook spawned from How Sweet, cutely titled Seriously Delish, for probably the 100th time, I finally ordered it.  And I have to say, it has been the BEST thing to arrive in my kitchen for a really long time.  Every. Single. Recipe. has been utterly wonderful.  

It's true, a a few cursory glances at the blog might lead you to believe that its recipes are on the more decadent side, but Jessica's food is remarkably whole, to use a trendy food adjective.  She uses a ton of whole grains, relies heavily on coconut oil, and adores kale and bacon in equal measure.  I've truly enjoyed making food from her book, and can't wait to write more about it.  Heavenly strawberry mascarpone scones.  BBQ chicken chili so hearty and flavorful that my SH didn't even complain about eating the leftovers.  White bean and turkey enchiladas that tasted restaurant-worthy.  A bran muffin recipe so perfect that I'll never need to find another.  And THIS salad-please, make it immediately.

Melon-Avocado-Arugula Salad with Crispy Prosciutto and Maple-Balsamic Vinaigrette, adapted from Seriously Delish, by Jessica Merchant

1/4 pound prosciutto, thinly sliced (I bought a cheap package at TJ's, which wasn't quite 1/4 a pound but seemed to be plenty.  And it was delicious, for what it's worth)
6 cups arugula
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cantaloupe, washed, halved, and seeded (I opted to slice the cantaloupe into small chunks and made one big salad bowl out of it all)
1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and sliced

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat and add the prosciutto.  Cook and toss with a wooden spoon (or something that won't scratch your skillet) until it is crisped and slightly golden in color, 5 to 6 minutes.  Remove the prosciutto and place it on a paper towel until ready to use.
2. Add the arugula to a large bowl and season with the salt and pepper.  If your melon halves don't sit straight, slice a little off the bottom to make them flat.  Divide the greens evenly between the melon halves and add half a sliver avocado to each. (As I mentioned, I opted to make one big salad, so I sliced the whole avocado and added it to the bowl).  
3. For the vinaigrette, whisk together the vinegar, syrup, garlic, salt, and pepper in a bowl.  Stir in the olive oil while continuing to whisk.  Pour over the salad.  Add the crispy prosciutto on top.  

-I use a small jam jar for making dressings and vinaigrettes.  I shake vigorously and everything emulsifies perfectly.  This might not be the best technique for recipes that use cream or yogurt in the dressing, but so far it's worked well.
-My SH tends to *require* some kind of protein in every meal in order for it to be a "real" meal in his mind.  I grilled a few sausages to serve on the side of the salad, but in reality, we didn't need them at all.  It's a perfect meal for two adults, I think.  I ate it for lunch the following day.