Rockin' salad

Taste for the unexpected suits melon salad with basil, pepper

Leah Eskin

Home on the Range

June 10, 2012


Mrs. Robin moved in last week. I'd seen her around, flitting from tree to telephone wire. I didn't realize she was scouting real estate.

On Saturday, I noticed a scattering of twigs and leaves on the patio near one of the pergola posts. On Sunday, the post was crowned by a nest. Then, the nest was filled with Mrs. Robin.

Her spot is high enough to clear the people and dog traffic, low enough to offer easy-in, easy-out. Wisteria provides sunscreen and privacy. Maybe other birds scoff at the treeless nest. But I think it's smart urban development.

Mrs. Robin and I keep an eye on each other. She works long hours, breaking to run errands, grab a drink or pick up a fresh worm snack. Back at the nest, she looks things over and then settles down, gazing out with a look that's half-enthralled, half-bored. My routine is about the same as hers, only at ground level, and requires a car.

We both like the herb garden. She pokes around for a berry or bug. I stop by to snip off a bit of basil, thyme, mint or oregano. I like to tuck the leaves into salad or pasta or — curiously — ripe melon.

It's not a combination I would have expected to work. But sun-warmed cantaloupe peppered with pepper and brightened with basil is surprisingly refreshing. I'm thinking Mrs. Robin, with her taste for the unexpected, would approve.

Melon salad

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 0
Serves: 4

1 cantaloupe, perfectly ripe, chilled
1 small bunch fresh basil
Pepper mill
Olive oil

Quarter the melon, north to south. Trim away rind. Slice — thin or thick — crosswise. Fan melon slices on to 4 plates.

Tuck in basil leaves, whole or torn, here and there. Weird, right? Grind on pepper, generously. Weirder, right?

Drizzle with a bit of olive oil, if you like. Strangely delicious, isn't it?

Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at leahreskin@aol.com.