Melon salads are ideal hot-weather fare, but they're prone to some common pitfalls: namely, watered-down dressings and garnishes that slide to the bottom of the salad bowl.
Because honeydew melons vary in sweetness, we started by tasting our melon to determine how much sugar to incorporate into our dressing. To counter the abundant water contributed by the melon, we made an intense dressing with assertive ingredients such as lime juice, fish sauce, shallot and Thai chiles, but we skipped the oil, which would only be repelled by the water on the surface of the melon. Instead, we added richness with dry-roasted peanuts, which — when chopped fine — adhered to the surface of the melon pieces and held on to the dressing.
To avoid watering down the dressing, we left the melon in large chunks, which freed less juice and accentuated the contrast between the well-seasoned exterior and the sweet, juicy interior.
This salad makes a light and refreshing accompaniment to grilled meat or fish and steamed white rice.
Technique tip: Taste the melon as you cut it up. If it's very sweet, omit the sugar; if it's less sweet, add the sugar to the dressing.
Combine lime juice and shallot in large bowl. Using mortar and pestle (or on cutting board using flat side of chef's knife), mash Thai chiles, garlic, and salt to fine paste. Add chile paste; sugar, if using; and fish sauce to lime juice mixture and stir to combine.2.
Add honeydew, 1/4 cup cilantro, 1/4 cup mint and 1/4 cup peanuts and toss to combine.3.
Transfer to shallow serving bowl. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon cilantro, remaining 1 tablespoon mint, and remaining 1 tablespoon peanuts and serve.