A Salad with Science: Melon Salad Agridolce

The first week in June, I had the opportunity to attend a super-swank reception for a bunch of sponsors because the boss was giving a wine and food pairing talk, headlining as their entertainment for the night. We keep a few good basic smell and taste demonstrations for these kinds of things, and it was my responsibility to prepare them and help set up. As a reward, I got to stay through an absolutely fantastic catered dinner.
I unfortunately couldn't take pictures of the meal due to the working part, but the salad was so awesome I wanted to recreate it on my own, and here's my attempt and additions.

This beautiful jumble of greens, fruit, cheese and nuts - all of which on their own are good with wine, and together make a great starter or even main salad - is just such an awesome combination. What's really cool about the salad, though, is that it echoed some points she went over in the lecture.
- Salt inhibits bitterness. We do this demo in the lab with raddichio and kosher salt; simply take a bite of raddichio, rate the bitterness, then add a tiny bit of salt, taste and rate again. I like a small sprinkling of salt over my lettuce greens, in addition to the salty note you get from the cheese.
- Fat provides a good opportunity to smooth out tannins. In the lab, we demonstrate this using q-tips soaked in tannic acid, but you can note the dry mouth feel after a very tannic wine, or even the walnuts in the salad. Eating something fatty before or alongside, like the cheese, helps to prevent this a bit. And bread, not water, is your best bet for replenishing the lubricating proteins if you have a very tannic wine.
- A salad with a vinaigrette paired with a wine will make the wine taste vinegary. To avoid this, she recommended using a less harsh vinegar, like balsamic, or replacing the vinegar in the salad dressing with the wine you're drinking. This avoids any conflicts. I actually found the WishBone salad spritzer in the red wine vinaigrette did a good job of getting the light coating and flavor I wanted for an individual salad, but if I were making for a crowd I'd toss the greens with a red wine and olive oil dressing before plating with the fruit.
In case you're curious, the red wine served at the tasting was a Le Colombier Vieilles Vignes Vacqueyras Cabernet Sauvignon, and it was darned good with the salad.

Inspired by Provence Catering, Philadelphia

salad for one
two to three large handfuls mesclun greens
red wine dressing or vinaigrette of your liking
pinch of salt and fresh grinding black pepper
1 ripe nectarine
1/5 small honeydew melon, preferably room temperature
1 tablespoon dried wild blueberries, or 2-3 Tbsp fresh blueberries
3-4 thin slices asiago cheese
6 or so toasted or lightly candied walnut halves, broken into pieces

Arrange the greens in a large bowl. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt and grind over some black pepper. Toss with just enough dressing to lightly coat.
Cube or thinly slice the nectarine and melon: the fruit can be arranged alongside or around the greens, or you can toss them together for a less formal but just as tasty rendition. Sprinkle over the blueberries and walnuts. Cheese may be arranged alongside in slices, or can also be shaved over the top of the salad.

**update: for other cool food, wine, and science stuff, check out the 3-part story by Mike Steinberger here, who actually apparently visited Monell and got to do a bunch of our taste-tests. Found through Serious Eats.


Blogger Lis said...

haha! No longer hungry.. starved! heheheeee This, to me, would be like a "dessert" salad.. does that sound weird? lol

I LOVE this.. I'm such a big advocate of never eating cheese alone - always have some fresh fruit and something crunchy like the nuts and I especially love a good cheese and fruit with wine!

Apart from loving all these ingredients, this salad really is appealing to me because I would never think of having my cheese and fruit plate dumped right in my salad and mixing it all together with my wine in the salad. I just love that!

'kay so, it's not like a host can say "ewww.. your submission is gross, but thanks so much!" We all are always so grateful for what's given us so that we can share with others, that compliments fly everywhere. But in all honesty, you guys and gals and your submissions to this salad party are FARKING AMAZING! The creativity ya'll have put into your salads is outstanding!

Emily, thank you - for not just one, but two amazingly delicious sounding (soon will be tasting!) salads.. I truly appreciate it! Kelly truly appreciates it! And our four thighs truly appreciate it! hehe ;)


9:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gorgeous salad. I would love to have this for dinner tonight. I'll have a sandwich, but I'll be thinking of the salad.

5:09 PM  
Blogger kellypea said...

This looks gorgeous and scrumptious! I've not used a melon other than watermelon in a salad, but love honeydew. Mmmm...Usually when I go to "swanky" affairs, the salad is quite forgettable. They never seem to think about what won't get wilted and gross by the time it's put in front of guests. How cool that you were able to recreated such a great salad. Can't wait to try the combination, and hope mine looks as lovely as yours! Thanks for your entry!

11:57 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Oooh, sounds yummy! i have a few melons lying about in the fridge actually!

4:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Emily, this is a gorrrrgeous salad! Looks like a great meal for hot summer days when the body craves something refreshing, filling and delicious!

4:13 AM  
Blogger melinda said...

what a delightful summer salad!

7:59 AM  
Blogger Acme Instant Food said...

As the weather gets warmer I tend to bring out the salads to the dinner table (as THE dinner). This sounds just perfect, and I love your photo. I've been tossing canteloupe into salads lately and it works well.

1:39 PM  
Blogger Peabody said...

Looks like a wonerful salad.

5:43 PM  
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Just found your nice blog. The salad looks great and very interesting food facts.

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Oh, this blog is really amazing!!! it catched my attention since the first time that i saw it and i must to say i spend a great time reading, because i usually like to discover new things. Really nice blog. I Love melon because it is a fruit that nourishes and hydrates the skin. So if you want to see the best benefits is better to consume frequently.
the melon is a great alternative when you are doing diet, because melon can help you to get the weight that you want.

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