Friday, April 12, 2013

Summer Staples : Mosaic Melon Salad with Mixed Melon Cubes, Heirloom Tomatoes, Red Chili Flake Finishing Salt, Basil-Mint Pesto, + Balsamic Reduction, Topped with Homemade Feta Burrata

Mosaic Melon Salad with Mixed Melon Cubes, Heirloom Tomatoes, Red Chili Flake Finishing Salt,
Basil-Mint Pesto, + Balsamic Reduction, Topped with Homemade Feta Burrata
Summer is quickly approaching and I don't think I can simply wait another day. My summer vacation usually means long days at the beach, going on picnics at Forsyth, baseball games, and cooking out in the garden. Can we just go ahead and all agree that besides all of those fun activities I just listed, Summer food is something I count down for all year long. Our favorites range from peaches and sweet berries to heirloom tomatoes and corn. This is the time that every fruit and vegetable raise the stakes and get in their A-game state of mind (yes, apparently Summer produce is like a superhero in my book, so lamezies). During the course of my blogging experiences, I like to set up seasonal themes to my weekly posting. I have Soup Sunday's in the Fall + Winter, Tailgatin' Saturday during the oh-so-amazingness that is college football, and Sunday Brunch during the Spring. So, this is my new latest installment... Summer Staples. These recipes will focus on everything that makes us happy during the unbearably awful heat. They will feature a lot of perfectly ripened produce, hand crafted specialty drinks, grilling marinated proteins, and delightful desserts (all of which will probably include homemade ice cream). It is all about light + fresh dishes that use the best of the best produce from your local farmer's market. Can you tell that I am just itchin' for some summer lovin'? I mean, it's pretty obvious. Okay enough about that, let's get to the recipe. First of all, this is vegetarian-friendly... what the what what? I know, I don't even know if I have a recipe that doesn't include some sort of protein, or to be more specific, bacon. I slaved away in the kitchen for this salad, but it's honestly because I wanted this artsy, over the top plating presentation. You could easily roughly cut them up into pieces or use a melon baller for a faster approach. The three types of melons bring so much color and a lot of sweetness, and then when it's paired with overly ripe + juicy heirloom tomatoes and creamy avocado... well, it simply makes takes this dish to "over-the-top" status. It's sprinkled with my Homemade Red Chili Flake Finishing Salt, which adds a savory depth of flavor, and our favorite, a spicy kick! The salad is drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, fresh citrus juice, and a syrupy balsamic reduction. But what's the main star of the dish, you ask? Oh no big deal or anything, I just made homemade Burrata cheese (patting myself on my back over here). For those of you that haven't heard of Burrata or even tasted it, then it's time to change that, right now. Why? Well, from the outside, it just looks like a plain 'ole ball of fresh mozzarella cheese, but oh boy, it sure isn't. Inside this ball, there is a shredded mozzarella + heavy cream gooey center, that once you cut it open, the luscious filling begins the flow out all of the plate. IT'S DIVINE. Now here comes my twist... Homemade Feta Burrata. Instead of the traditional or classic filling, I mixed crumbled feta cheese with cream, and quickly packed it into a thinly stretched mozzarella shell. It's a daunting task, but it's so goshdarn worth it. I will be posting a recipe tomorrow (hopefully) with a step-by-step pictorial recipe for my Feta Burrata, so y'all can make it too. But hey, I wont get mad if you'd rather just buy it from the grocery store, it will still taste as delicious. The freshly made Burrata is covered in a homemade Basil-Minto Pesto, as well as some julienned herbs and pickled red onions (if you dare). Oh and side note, we loved this Feta Burrata so much that I know I just have to make a Goat Cheese Burrata, so that will be coming around the bend soon enough!! Enjoy :)

the. perfect. summer. salad. EVER. 
For the Red Chili Flake Finishing Salt:
2T High Quality Salt (such as Maldon, Pink Himalayan, Fleur de Sel, or Gray Sea Salt)
1T Red Pepper Flakes (if you don’t like a lot of heat, then you can cut back on the flakes)
¼t Cayenne or Paprika

For the Homemade Basil-Mint Pesto:
1C Fresh Basil Leaves, Lightly Packed
2C Fresh Mint Leaves, Lightly Packed
2 Garlic Cloves, Roughly Chopped
¼C Toasted Pine Nuts, Roughly Chopped
Squeeze of Fresh Lemon (plus a little bit of freshly grated lemon zest)
½C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½C Parmesan Cheese, Grated
Salt & Pepper, To Taste (and a pinch of sugar for some balance)

For the Mosaic Melon Salad:
Fresh Watermelon, Honeydew, & Cantaloupe, Cut into 1 or 2-inch Cubes
1 Red + 1 Yellow Heirloom Tomato, Cut into 1 or 2-inch Cubes
1 Avocado, Cut into 1 or 2-inch Cubes (this is optional, but I love the creaminess it lends)
Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice, To Your Liking (lime can also be substituted)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, For Drizzling
Prepared Red Chili Flake Finishing Salt, For Sprinkling
1 Ball of Homemade Feta Burrata (some substitutes are classic Burrata or crumbled feta)
Prepared Homemade Basil-Mint Pesto, For Topping
Fresh Basil + Fresh Mint, Julienned (for garnishing)
Syrupy Balsamic Reduction, For Drizzling
Shaved Raw Red Onions or Pickled Red Onions (we liked the acidity of the pickled onions)

1. For the Red Chili Flake Finishing Salt: Combine the salt of your choice, along with the red pepper flakes, and cayenne/paprika. Whisk and mash slightly for a more cohesive salt.
2. For the Homemade Basil-Mint Pesto: Put the basil, mint, garlic, pine nuts, about ½t of salt, lemon juice, & lemon zest in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to chop the ingredients, scraping down the bowl when necessary. Remove this pureed mixture into a bowl and whisk in the olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese until they are completely incorporated throughout. Season with salt, pepper, and some sugar to taste.
3. For the Mosaic Melon Salad: When cutting the melons, tomato, and avocado, try to make them into the same sized cubes, so that they will fit together perfectly together, like a puzzle or mosaic. I organized my fruit & vegetable squares by a pattern of color (just try to mix it up a little bit, so that there aren’t any of the same colors next to one another. Once you have an entire plate of rainbow cubes, evenly squeeze a little bit of lemon juice all over the plate, and then drizzle on some olive oil. Next, sprinkle the Red Chili Flake Finishing Salt all over the salad (this part really gives the salad a deep flavor and perfectly balances the dish between sweet, salty, and spicy, so don’t skip it).
4. Serving the Salad: Place the ball of Homemade (or store bought) Feta Burrata in the middle of the salad and spoon the Basil-Mint Pesto all over the top of the Burrata (and a little around the plate). Garnish the pesto covered Burrata with julienned fresh basil + mint, as well as a generous drizzling of syrup balsamic reduction all over the plate (we love balsamic reduction, so we use a lot). Finish the plate by placing a small pile of pickled red onions (or thinly shaved raw red onion) on the center of the Burrata ball. Season with a little salt & pepper if it needs it.
5. Enjoy it immediately with a glass of wine!

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