Rockin' salad

Taste for the unexpected suits melon salad with basil, pepper

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Mrs. Robin moved in last week. I'd seen her around, flitting from tree to telephone wire. I didn't realize she was scouting real estate.

On Saturday, I noticed a scattering of twigs and leaves on the patio near one of the pergola posts. On Sunday, the post was crowned by a nest. Then, the nest was filled with Mrs. Robin.

Her spot is high enough to clear the people and dog traffic, low enough to offer easy-in, easy-out. Wisteria provides sunscreen and privacy. Maybe other birds scoff at the treeless nest. But I think it's smart urban development.

Mrs. Robin and I keep an eye on each other. She works long hours, breaking to run errands, grab a drink or pick up a fresh worm snack. Back at the nest, she looks things over and then settles down, gazing out with a look that's half-enthralled, half-bored. My routine is about the same as hers, only at ground level, and requires a car.

We both like the herb garden. She pokes around for a berry or bug. I stop by to snip off a bit of basil, thyme, mint or oregano. I like to tuck the leaves into salad or pasta or — curiously — ripe melon.

It's not a combination I would have expected to work. But sun-warmed cantaloupe peppered with pepper and brightened with basil is surprisingly refreshing. I'm thinking Mrs. Robin, with her taste for the unexpected, would approve.

Melon salad

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 0
Serves: 4

1 cantaloupe, perfectly ripe, chilled
1 small bunch fresh basil
Pepper mill
Olive oil

Quarter the melon, north to south. Trim away rind. Slice — thin or thick — crosswise. Fan melon slices on to 4 plates.

Tuck in basil leaves, whole or torn, here and there. Weird, right? Grind on pepper, generously. Weirder, right?

Drizzle with a bit of olive oil, if you like. Strangely delicious, isn't it?

Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at
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