Sunday, September 14, 2014

Melon Mojito Salad

I enjoyed this delicious salad on our recent visit to New Orleans.  I ordered it as the starter to my lunch at Café Adelaide & Swizzle Stick Bar.  (And, by the way, I highly recommend this restaurant for lunch.  They offer $.25 martini lunches.  Order an entrée and your martini’s are only $.25.  The menu says, “limit of three – because three’s all you need!”  Fabulous food, impeccable service and beautiful atmosphere!)  I have tried to duplicate the salad since my return home.  I think I’ve done an admirable job.  I’ve served it twice, and all have enjoyed it and raved over it.  So – enjoy!
Seasonal melon, cut into small pieces  (I used watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew.  The melon will be arranged on the salad greens – so use enough for the number of salads you will be serving.)
Mint, chopped finely
1 – 2 Tbls dark rum, depending upon how much melon you’re using
Combination of greens, enough for the number of salads you will be serving  (I used Romaine and Red Leaf lettuce)
Chunks of Goat Cheese
Spiced Pecans (recipe follows)
Bacon Molasses Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Combine the melon, mint and rum in a container about 30 minutes before serving the salad.  I’ve made this as much as three hours before serving and the melon didn’t become mushy. However, I did place it back in the fridge to marinate.
Combine the greens in a large bowl.  Drizzle with Bacon Molasses Vinaigrette and toss.  Serve the greens on individual plates.
Scatter chunks of Goat cheese on top of the greens and then arrange the melon on top of that. Sprinkle the Spiced Pecans on top.  Serve and enjoy this refreshing and delightful salad.
Note:  You could also add some grilled chicken to make this a main course salad.
Spiced Pecans Recipe:
(Adapted From Alton Brown)
4 oz pecan halves
¼ tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
½ tsp water
Mix the spices together in a small bowl and set aside.  Place the nuts in a cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes until they start to brown and smell toasted.  Be careful they don’t burn.  Add the butter and stir until it melts.  Add the spice mixture and stir to combine.  Add the sugar and water, stirring until the mixture thickens and coats the nuts.  (Approximately 2 to 3 minutes)
Transfer the nuts to a prepared sheet pan (line a sheet pan with parchment paper – or spray with non-stick cooking spray) separate them with a fork or spatula.  Allow the nuts to cool completely before transferring to an airtight container for storage.
For this salad – you will break the spiced pecan halves into pieces for topping the salad.  I suppose you could start with pecan pieces – but I was afraid I would burn them more easily than starting with the halves.
Bacon Molasses Vinaigrette Recipe:
2 pieces of bacon, cut into small pieces – fry until crisp.  Drain on paper towel – reserve 1 tablespoon bacon grease
2 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 ½ teaspoons minced shallot
1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh basil
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon bacon grease
Place everything, except the bacon, into a small blender.  (I use the small container of my Bullet for this)  Whirl until everything is completely combined and smooth.  Add the bacon to the vinaigrette.   Set aside. 
Note:  I’ve made this the night before making the salad.  However, I didn’t add the bacon until about 30 minutes before serving.  Just place in the fridge until ready to use.