I grew up eating a ton of fruit salad. It would turn up at potlucks in large pyrex bowls and at weddings in the buffet where chaat masala-spiked fruit would rub shoulders with a mayo-drowned Waldorf salad that almost always tasted revolting. Honestly, I’ve never been able to put grape and mayonnaise together. The Waldorf Astoria may have created some truly remarkable dishes, but this one still baffles me. Moving on, the crux of a good fruit salad is freshness, and you can’t really do justice to something fresh if you empty out a bottle of American Garden and stir it through. Taking some inspo from what’s looking good right now in the market, I tossed together some sweet-smelling musk melon (the trick is to smell their stems for sweetness), mango, and persian cucumbers together. For the dressing, I wanted to pit the sweetness of the two fruits against the bitterness of ground coriander and the remarkable zing of sumac. Some fresh green chillies, onions, herbs, and to finish, I popped some brown rice as a crunchy topping. This salad is remarkably good for the summer, so plate this one for lunch tomorrow.
Mango, Melon and Cucumber Salad With Popped Brown Rice
A savoury-sweet fruit salad that plays nicely with textures and flavours. Perfect for the Indian summer, there's enough zing in here to get you excited about lunchtime. Stay clear of alphonso mangoes for this salad because you want a mango that would sit well with very sweet musk melons. Also, I'm totally in awe of how well sumac sits on sweet fruit. Move over chaat masala!
Mango 1, something like Badam or Totapuri, but not Alphonso, seeded and chopped into cubes
Musk melon 1/2, seeds scraped out, rind removed and chopped into cubes
Persian cucumber 1, thinly sliced
Red onion 1, thinly sliced
Coriander a handful, stems discarded and finely chopped
Mint leaves a handful, picked and finely chopped
Sumac 1-2 tsp
For the dressing:
Olive oil 1/4 cup
White wine vinegar 1/4 cup
Ground coriander 1 tsp
Cardamom powder 1/8 tsp
Salt 1 tsp
Black pepper 1/2 tsp
Green Chillies 2, slit lengthwise and chopped
For the popped brown rice:
Brown rice 2 tbsp
Vegetable oil 2 tsp
Whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing and leave the sliced onions to pickle for about half an hour, letting the sharpness of the onions mellow for a bit.
Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan over high heat till shimmering and hot. Add in half the rice and spread it out on the surface of the pan so each grain comes in contact with the heat. Put a lid on the pan. When you start hearing the popping of the rice, take it off the heat and keep shaking the pan vigorously till the popping stops. Empty the rice out on a paper towel and repeat with the rest of the rice.
Mix the mangoes, melon and cucumbers together with the dressing taking care to not break them, then let the salad sit in the refrigerator an additional 15 minutes before serving.
Drain any excess water before plating, sprinkle over the sumac, the chopped herbs, and spoon over the toasted rice. Serve.