As summer slowly slips away into fall, the last thing I want to do is hole up in my kitchen and tuck into a complicated recipe. Instead, I take advantage of the seasonal abundance that late summer brings. I relish in the hard work of my favourite farmers at the market by making simple, classically inspired dishes that let the fresh plentitude of the season do the talking and that speak from the heart of where the food came from.
That is why I want to dedicate this recipe to Forbes Farm, an independent family-run organic farm in Oliver, B.C. that I discovered recently at the Penticton Farmers' Market this summer while cooking in nearby Naramata. Forbes Farm’s melons are some of the best I have ever tasted.
A perfectly ripe cantaloupe is a thing of beauty. Musky and juicy, it falls heavily and easily from the vine as it is being picked. At the farmers' market, choose melons that are noticeably sweet and fragrant and feel heavy for their size. The Charentais varietal is my personal favourite. Developed in France around 1920, it is generally more fragrant than the common cantaloupe I ate while growing up in North America.
Although I have often seen melon paired with prosciutto, I prefer to use speck, a smoked and aged ham that is cured with spices that lend it a deeper, more intense flavour than its Italian counterpart.
Melons, Nectarines, Speck and Citrus Vinaigrette
Ingredients (Serves 4)
1 orange, juice and zest
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
20 grinds freshly cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Whisk all ingredients together. Store in the fridge until ready to use. Can be made up to three days in advance.
1 ripe cantaloupe, Charentais variety if possible
2 ripe nectarines
12 thin slices of speck ham, can substitute prosciutto or serrano ham if necessary
½ cup loosely packed fresh mint
Freshly cracked black pepper
Cut the ends off the cantaloupe. Using a knife, remove the skin from the melon. Cut the melon in half, lengthwise. Spoon out the seeds and discard. Cut each half into 4 slices. Cut each slice into 4 to 5 pieces of equal size. Cut each nectarine into 8 pieces.
Mix the nectarines and the melon with enough citrus vinaigrette to coat well. Plate on a large platter. Drape the dressed fruit with the ham and garnish with mint leaves. Finish with more freshly cracked black pepper. Spoon more dressing on top if required. Serve immediately.