A melon and cucumber salad combines crisp cucumbers, sweet honeydew, and peppery kohlrabi. Served with softly whipped mascarpone, lime juice, smoked almonds, and a healthy sprinkling of microgreens. Not only is it full of incredible flavors, but it’s also a seriously pretty salad.
Adapted from Vivian Lui | Eat California | Smith Street Books, 2020
It’s apparent when melon has arrived at the farmers’ market because most of the chefs in the state will have it on their menu in some form to celebrate the iconic summer flavors.–Vivian Lui
Melon and Cucumber Salad
- 2 teaspoons white sesame seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 3 tablespoons smoked almonds
- 6 ounces (about 3/4 cup) mascarpone cheese whisked until smooth
- 1/2 small (1 1/2 lbs) honeydew melon rind and seeds removed, thinly sliced
- 2 (10 oz) lemon cucumbers or other summer variety thinly sliced
- 2 small (10 oz) kohlrabi peeled and thinly sliced
- Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
- Juice of 1 lime
- 10 finger limes halved and segments scraped (or a segmented and chopped Persian lime)
- 2 handfuls of fresh spicy or floral flowering herbs or microgreens*
- Sea salt flakes
- In a small skillet over medium-low heat, toast sesame, coriander, and cumin seeds until fragrant, 2 to 4 minutes. Add almonds and toast for 1 minute more. Remove from the pan and leave to cool. Roughly chop or smash seeds and nuts with a mortar and pestle.
- Swipe mascarpone on the bottom of a large platter or around the sides of a large shallow serving bowl. Layer melon, cucumbers, and kohlrabi, then sprinkle seed mix all over.
- Season with and a drizzle of olive oil. Squeeze a little lime juice to taste. Top with finger limes and flowering herbs or microgreens.
*What are microgreens?Those cute little shoots that you see are simply lettuce, herb, and veggie sprouts that are harvested when they’re about an inch tall. And they can be nearly anything green and edible–kale, broccoli, sunflowers, lettuce, arugula, watercress, peas, just to name a few. Their popularity comes from the fact that they make a gorgeous garnish but also because they’re little nutrient powerhouses. In fact, they often contain more nutrition than the mature version of the same plant.
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This melon and cucumber salad is a total sleeper hit. I was definitely skeptical about the unusual combination of ingredients–sweet honeydew + earthy kohlrabi + rich and creamy mascarpone and smokey nuts? But darned if it doesn’t work, and really well at that. The toasted seed/nut mixture may be the magic bullet here, somehow bringing all the flavors together under a shower of salty and savory flavors, and making the dish work in its most interesting way. Even my husband with his conservative palate added a ‘wow’ or two as we eagerly scooped up bites from a shared platter.
It should also be said that the salad makes a striking presentation, even more so than evident in the recipe photo. (Hint: leave the rind on small Persian cucumbers when slicing and the darker green color makes the salad that much more gorgeous.) I can’t wait to have the occasion to serve this for company–I know it will be a conversation starter.
As an added bonus, the recipe comes together quickly and with very little effort. Most of the work involves cutting the melon and vegetables and then it’s a quick matter of assembly. I didn’t have access to any finger limes, but the chopped flesh of one Persian lime was a delightful and adequate substitution. The sprinkle of Maldon sea salt flakes is also a don’t-miss step, so don’t skimp!
Did you want to feel like the kind of person that wears satin mules and a chiffon robe, who simply tosses a few ingredients together when friends show up to lounge poolside? Then, dahling, this is the recipe for you! This melon and cucumber salad is composed of an unlikely and eyebrow-raising combination of ingredients, but it’s nothing short of show-stopping. It’s also just right for a hot summer day, refreshing and just filling enough.
I made this a second time and subbed slivered almonds for the smoked almonds and smoked sea salt for the regular salt flakes. I preferred the substitutions, plus then it looked celebratory with some edible flowers on top.
Gorgeous and unexpected flavors! The combination works with the beauty of an all-green salad, and the contrast of the silky melon, the thin crispness of the cucumber and kohlrabi, and the fragrant surprises of the coriander, the smokiness of the nuts, and the lime & mascarpone. I never would have put all these together yet they are perfect.
The items you need to shop for are perfect in summer, though likely available in much of the mild seasons. I actually had a green Gaia cantaloupe, which is almost identical in texture and flavor as honeydew and I could buy a half melon. Persian limes and Persian cucumbers worked (no finger limes to be found though I am scheming to have a tree!) and the delicate Persian cucumbers are my staple crisp salad ingredient.
Tip: The seeds will start to wriggle and give off a whiff of steam before they start to darken, so do not walk away.
You can make it a little easier to whisk the mascarpone if it has come to room temperature, but it doesn’t take too much effort to make it creamy by using a stiff narrow spatula or flat wire whisk.
This melon and cucumber salad makes a really pretty platter–serve it that way for the drama, and on a summer night a half recipe made dinner for two and a solid thumbs up!
Originally published September 11, 2021