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This week's recipes from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen

August 05, 2012|By Noelle Carter
  • Smoked chicken and cantaloupe salad.
Smoked chicken and cantaloupe salad. (Gary Friedman )

More than simply a sweet one-note food, melons shine in a number of savory dishes -- like salads -- as Food editor Russ Parsons shares this week:

There are plenty of traditional examples of this. The most obvious is melon and prosciutto, and a very good one it is: the satin saltiness of the ham playing against the buttery sweetness of the melon. That’s only the beginning of possibilities. I remember well the Thai melon salad Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger used to serve at their old City restaurant, nitro-fueled by fish sauce and chiles.

I’ve been playing with versions of my own recently, mainly because my kitchen counters have been overflowing with melons, so good has this summer’s harvest been.

Russ also shares what to look for in a ripe melon, and how to choose the right one.

This week's recipes include:

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Watermelon salad with feta, mint and cumin-lime dressing

Total time: 20 minutes

Servings: 4 to 6

2 pounds watermelon cubes

1 pound feta, cut in cubes

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds

3 tablespoons lime juice


1 1/2 tablespoons oil

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

1. Combine watermelon, feta and jalapeño in serving bowl.

2. Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan over medium heat until they become fragrant and begin to pop, about 2 minutes. If using a mortar and pestle, grind the cumin seeds to dust, add lime juice, salt to taste and oil and whisk to a smooth emulsion. If using a blender, combine the cumin seeds, lime juice, salt and oil and blend until smooth.

3. Just before serving, add half of the dressing to the watermelon mixture. Toss gently to keep everything whole and taste the salad. If desired, add more dressing. Add the chopped mint and toss gently.

Each of 6 servings: 281 calories; 12 grams protein; 16 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 20 grams fat; 12 grams saturated fat; 67 mg cholesterol; 13 grams sugar; 847 mg sodium.

Smoked chicken and cantaloupe salad

Total time: 20 minutes

Servings: 4

Note: Whole smoked chickens are available at some fancy grocery stores and delis. If you can’t find a whole smoked chicken, use a rotisserie chicken instead.

1 tablespoon minced shallots

2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar

1/2 pound shredded smoked chicken

3/4 pound diced cantaloupe

1 tablespoon oil

Pinch of salt

2 ounces (4 generous cups) torn arugula

Freshly ground black pepper

1. In a small bowl, combine the shallots and the vinegar, and set aside to steep for at least 5 minutes while you’re preparing the rest of the ingredients.

2. Combine the chicken and the cantaloupe in a serving bowl, and set aside until ready to serve.

3. When ready to serve, whisk the oil into the vinegar mixture to make a smooth emulsion. Season with a pinch of salt.

4. Add the arugula to the chicken and cantaloupe. Pour dressing over the mixture and stir gently to ensure that everything is evenly coated. Finish with a good grinding of freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Each serving: 161 calories; 15 grams protein; 9 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 7 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 43 mg cholesterol; 7 grams sugar; 96 mg sodium.

The Sweet Life Cafe's white gazpacho

Total time: 20 minutes, plus chilling time

Servings: 4 to 6

Note: Adapted from the Sweet Life Cafe on Massachusett’s Martha’s Vineyard. To make smoked paprika oil, warm 1/3 cup olive oil with 2 tablespoons smoked paprika in a small saucepan, then strain through cheesecloth and cool before using. The restaurant also suggests garnishing the soup with clams steamed in white wine.

2 hothouse cucumbers, peeled and chopped (seeds can be removed)

1/2 bunch green grapes (about 2 cups)

3 cloves garlic

1 cup yogurt, preferably Greek-style

1/2 cup sour cream or crème fraîche

Juice of ½ lemon

1 tablespoon salt, or to taste

Tabasco, or similar hot sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar, or as desired

Toasted almonds, for garnish

Sliced red grapes, for garnish

Smoked paprika oil, for garnish

1. Purée the cucumbers in a blender. Push the cucumbers through a sieve into a medium bowl. Blend the grapes and garlic in the blender, then push through a sieve and stir into the cucumbers.

2. Whisk in the yogurt, sour cream and lemon juice, and season with the salt, sugar and vinegar. Add the Tabasco to taste. This makes about 1½ quarts of soup. Chill the soup, then divide among chilled bowls and garnish with the almonds, grapes and paprika oil before serving.

Each of 6 servings (without garnish): 89 calories; 4 grams protein; 11 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 3 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 8 mg cholesterol; 9 grams sugar; 1,197 mg sodium.

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