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Summer Melon Salad with Harissa, Feta, and Mint

Serves 6.  

1 cup cantaloupe (watermelon could be substituted), cut into small cubes

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup Persian cucumbers, cut into thin coins (about 1/8" thick) or English cucumber, cut into half lengthwise and then half-moons 1/8" thick

½ cup feta cheese, crumbled or cubed, or to taste

¼ cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped or torn

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon harissa (or to taste) – see recipe below

1 teaspoon honey

Freshly squeezed lemon juice

Fleur de sel (or other sea salt) and freshly ground black pepper  

1. Mix the cantaloupe, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, mint, and feta in a bowl.

2. In a small bowl, whisk the extra-virgin olive oil with the harissa and honey.

3. Drizzle the harissa-honey dressing over the salad, a little at a time, tasting as you go. Season to taste with fleur de sel, a little freshly ground black pepper, and lemon juice. Toss to combine. The flavors will pop when you get the right amount of seasoning!

4. This salad can be assembled in advance and chilled, though I like to add the tomatoes at room temperature. The flavors get even better after they've had a chance to mingle.      

                                                                                -- via Food52.

Harissa: North African Chile Paste (via Saveur Magazine) In North Africa, cooks have long relied on this garlicky chile paste to lend depth to cooked meats and vegetables. It's incredibly dependable in its ability to liven up foods—we use it in all sorts of ways, from serving alongside crudités to rubbing grilled meats to topping falafel. This recipe is based on one in A Mediterranean Feast by Clifford Wright (William Morrow, 1999). MAKES 1 CUP.  

INGREDIENTS

8 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded (about 2 oz.)

8 dried new mexico chiles, stemmed and seeded (about 1 1⁄2 oz.)

¼ tsp. caraway seeds

¼ tsp. coriander seeds

½ tsp. cumin seeds

3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

1 ½ tsp. kosher salt

5 cloves garlic

Juice of 1 lemon

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Put chiles into a medium bowl, cover with boiling water, and let sit until softened, about 20 minutes. Heat caraway, coriander, and cumin in an 8" skillet over medium heat. Toast spices, swirling skillet constantly, until very fragrant, about 4 minutes. Transfer spices to a grinder and grind to a fine powder. Set aside.

2. Drain chiles and transfer to the bowl of a food processor with the ground spices, olive oil, salt, garlic, and lemon juice. Purée, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until the paste is very smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a sterilized 1-pint glass jar and fill with oil until ingredients are submerged by ½". Refrigerate, topping off with more oil after each use. Harissa paste will keep for up to 3 weeks.

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