Years ago, when writing for another food website, I received some intensely passionate hate mail over a joke I made about honeydew. I like honeydew very much! But, much like raisins and Rob Schneider, honeydew is easy to make jokes about. It is cantaloupe’s less attractive green cousin. It is Bojack Horseman’s nemesis. It is the lowest caste of fruit salad society, falling below even the lowly halved grape. Honeydew gets no damn respect.
So I’ve decided to write a recipe for honeydew salad as a formal apology to honeydew, because it really is wonderful when you come across a good one. Look for a melon that’s not the least bit green—you want a rind that is at the very least white, but ideally a creamy yellow. A ripe honeydew also has subtle ridges on its skin, so if the melon you’re feeling up in the produce section is too smooth, but it back down and go rub some other melons. Since public melon handling can be a bit hazardous these days, if you don’t have your own gloves for the job, improvise by putting plastic produce bags over your hands like puppets.
I know we don’t always have a choice of what honeydew we’re getting, especially at a time where so many of us are relying on grocery delivery. This recipe works wonderfully with both good and middling honeydew. (If you have a superlative, absolutely perfect honeydew, you should not make this salad. You should eat that honeydew plain and enjoy every glorious second of it.) Some of the honeydew in this salad gets quick-pickled into gently sweet and vividly tart bite-sized pieces that can have a sharp hit of chili if you so choose. Some of the honeydew gets shaved into ribbons: if the honeydew is ripe, it’s delightful; if it’s a bit under-ripe, it acts a bit like a faintly sweet cucumber, which is a different kind of delightful.
The seeds get used, too! Honeydew seeds are just as edible as pumpkin and sunflower seeds are, so I toasted some up and sprinkled them all over my salad. It’s important to note that the seeds can be a little tough to eat whole if their shells aren’t paper-thin, so once they’re roasted, give them a taste; if you think they might be a little difficult to eat in a salad, pulse them for a while in a mini food processor, or just serve them on the side for snacking.
As with most things in a salad recipe, the cheese on top is optional. A friend recently sent me a gift of goat and blue cheeses from Jones Family Farm outside of Utica, New York, and they were beyond spectacular, hence why you see crumbles of blue cheese in my photos below. But the only reason I put this cheese on my salad was because it was incredible, and it deserved to be there. Don’t go out buying crappy blue cheese to put on this, because it has not earned its place in the salad. Only make salads with ingredients you truly enjoy. If you’ve got a nice cheese hanging around your fridge, or feel like treating yourself to something fancy from the store, then go nuts.
Feeds 2-6 people, depending on how much those people like salad
For the salad:
- 1 honeydew melon (don’t worry about the size)
- 1-2 heads Boston lettuce (don’t worry about the size here, either)
- Crumbly cheese (I used an amazing goat blue from Jones Family Farm, but the choice is yours)
For the crunchy seeds:
- Honeydew seeds
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- Good salt and freshly cracked pepper
For the pickled honeydew:
- 1 cup white wine vinegar, Champagne vinegar, or white balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. honey
- 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional)
For the vinaigrette:
- 1/3 cup pickling liquid
- 1 tsp. honey
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Cut the honeydew in half, scoop out all the seeds, then wrap one half in plastic and put it back in the fridge for other purposes. (What those purposes are, I shall not ask. You and your honeydew are entitled to some privacy.)
Fill a bowl with water, toss all the seeds in there, and swish them around to separate them from any honeydew pulp (if you can’t get all the pulp off, it’s no big deal). Drain the seeds well, then toss with olive oil, a pinch of salt, and freshly cracked pepper. Spread the seeds out on the baking sheet into a single layer and roast for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they’re a lovely shade of brown. Let cool completely, then give one a taste. If your honeydew seeds aren’t crunchy enough to eat easily (this depends on the thickness of their shells), throw them in a mini food processor to chop them up into tiny bits.
While the seeds are roasting, split your half honeydew into two pieces. Cut the rind off one piece, then dice the flesh into 3/4" pieces until you have roughly three cups of honeydew. In a saucepan or microwave-safe container, heat the vinegar, honey, salt, and red pepper (if using) until just steaming, then stir well and pour over the diced honeydew. Set aside to quick-pickle for about 10 minutes while you’re making the rest of the salad.
Cut the rind off the remaining honeydew, then use a vegetable peeler to cut the flesh into thin ribbons. When you get to the end and the honeydew has become a difficult-to-work-with nubby bit, just eat it. No reason for anyone to get hurt or aggravated while making a salad.
For the vinaigrette: put the pickling liquid, olive oil, and honey in a jar, seal it tightly, then shake the everliving bejesus out of it until it comes together. Give it a little taste and add a bit of salt and pepper to your liking.
Put your clean lettuce into a large bowl, then toss it with a few teaspoons of vinaigrette to just barely coat the leaves. Layer on plates with the honeydew ribbons, then sprinkle with roasted seeds, pickled honeydew, crumbled cheese, and a light drizzling of more vinaigrette.