By Jessie Lehail,
Special to The Post
This recipe was created by accident. In my head the watermelon would balance out the acidity of the tomatoes, the peanuts would be crunchy and the mint refreshing. In reality, the flavours were unexpected and complex.
This salad pops of colour and helps alleviate summer’s intense heat. It’s fresh and crunchy and a refreshing side dish to serve with grilled meat or fish.
The addition of the peanuts is inspired by a passage from one of my favourite, The Namesake. The author, Jhumpa Lahiri has the ability to evoke nostalgia with stirring simplicity.
In an opening passage, the main character, Ashima Ganguli tries to satisfy her cravings for Indian snack food with an American concoction that imitates the flavours of home. She mixes Rice Krispies with Planters peanuts, chopped red onion, salt, lemon juice and green chili peppers. It is an inadequate substitute for chaat, but a way to connect memories of home in Calcutta to her new life in the USA.
For this salad, I’ve used some of the best elements of Ashima’s peanut mixture and then added my secret weapon, chaat masala, which helps to merge sweet, spicy, and sour flavours.
• 3 cups watermelon, cubed
• 1 tomato, chopped
• ¼ cup of mint, chopped
• 5 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 teaspoon Himalayan Pink Salt
• 2 teaspoons chaat masala
• ½ teaspoon black pepper
• ½ teaspoon chili pepper
• ½ teaspoon lemon pepper
• 1/3 cup peanuts
Toss tomatoes and watermelon in a large bowl and sprinkle with Himalayan pink salt. Add the mint. Make the dressing by combining the olive oil with the spices, and then add the peanuts, tossing to combine. Pour the peanut chaat mixture over the watermelon and tomato mixture and toss gently. Arrange on a platter and trim with any remaining mint. Serve salad at room.
Jessie Lehail is the author of Indian Influence, a food blog that takes global eats and reinterprets them with a South Asian influence. Visit her blog at www.indianinfluence.ca