Around our domicile, this cucumber and melon salad with pickled shallots and edible flowers has been the meal that has been dubbed “the salad of the summer.” When the hot weather kicked in and left us all listless and vaguely grumpy, big platters of this salad made us happy and light.
Which is a pretty big lift for such a simple salad!
One of the fun things about having a garden in the back yard, is that I get to see the herbs transition from little greens that are perfect for cooking, into herbs that flower – which are also great for cooking. But, the real joy is how beautiful the flowers are. And how fragrant they are!
When our purple basil started flowering Jedd and Mom wanted to deadhead them because expending the energy to produce the flowers can make the basil leaves bitter.
I have no idea if that’s true, because I’m not the gardener in the family.
However, I am the enthusiastic woman with the camera who’s a sucker for beautiful ingredients, so I beseeched them not to deadhead the herbs until I could play with them.
And when the hot spell was making me see double because of the constant sweat in my eyes, (Vermonters aren’t built for 98-degree days!), I was sad scrolling through Instagram hoping to see something that would lift my mood – and give me an idea for dinner.
And that’s when I ran across a canape recipe from California Grown for cantaloupe, cucumber, and pickled onion appetizers.
Well, that seemed to fit the bill.
We had on hand the most gorgeous, sweet, and magical cantaloupe from our CSA, that you’ve ever seen. (Thanks Farmer Ken! Thanks Melissa!)
But, by the fourth night of making canapes, I decided to take the ingredients and turn them into a large and luscious salad with edible flowers and nuts.
Which made us very, very happy. It’s the perfect salad! It’s crunchy from the cucumber and pistachios, light and sweet from the melon, peppery from the nasturtium and tatsoi flowers, savory from the cotija, and citrusy and bright from the lemon juice and pickled shallots.
By Jove, I think we have the secret to successfully beating a heat wave!
(Note: If you don’t have herbal flowers on hand, you can always use edible flowers from your back yard, or from the farmers market. Or even from your own kitchen! Jedd used to grow us nasturtium in our kitchen window in our old apartment. And of course, if you can get your hand on some corn or pea shoots, well, they’re amazing too! Fun fact: I’d forgotten Jedd’s article about growing shoots and microgreens was when we’d moved into our old apartment, and features photos of Max the Cat, and Little Black Kitten who seriously hasn’t aged a day!)
Edible Flowers You Might Not Know Are Edible:
- Organic Apple blossoms (Delicate and floral tasting.)
- Bee Balm (They have a mild citrus flavor.)
- Borage (Tastes a little like cucumber.)
- Chrysanthemums (Blanch the petals, and compost the base of the flower because it’s too bitter to be enjoyable. But the petals are bright and spicy!)
- Lavender (Light and floral.)
- Marigolds (A little peppery.)
- Nasturtiums (Peppery and addictive!)
- Pea Blossoms (Sweet and lovely!)
- Viola/Johnny Jump-Ups (A little minty.)
- Pansies (Slightly spicy “green” taste.)
Cucumber and Melon Salad with Pickled Shallots and Edible Flowers
Pickled Shallots Ingredients:
½ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup water
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
Pickled Shallot Instructions:
Bring the vinegar, water, granulated sugar, bay leaves, peppercorns and red pepper flakes to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes.
Let cool for 5 minutes.
Place the sliced shallots in a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid.
Pour the brine over the shallots, and let come to room temperature.
Cover, and refrigerate for up to a week.
Melon and Cucumber Salad Ingredients:
1/2 large (approximately 3 lb.) cantaloupe, balled
2 mini cucumbers, thinly sliced
¼ cup – 1/3 cup crumbled cotija or feta
2 tablespoons roughly chopped pistachios
Red basil flowers, stripped from the stalk
Nasturtium or other edible flowers, or corn or pea shoots
Melon and Cucumber Salad Instructions:
Place all the ingredients in a large bowl, and drizzle with lemon vinaigrette.
Lemon Vinaigrette Ingredients:
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large lemon, zested and juiced
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon lemon pepper
Lemon Vinaigrette Instructions:
Whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl.
Store refrigerated in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid for up to 3 days.