So much of what we create in the kitchen comes from some sort of inspiration... our own imagination, something that has captivated our thoughts (or palate)... a recipe we've spied, a photograph, an outing, a conversation. Or, simply an ingredient that's at the peak of its season.
In this particular instance, it was much of the above; elements that came together to create a truly flavorful, summer-centric salad composed of so much of the bounty we assign to this time of year: ripe, succulent heirloom tomatoes that range from large, bulbous spheres to smaller varieties of varying symmetry, size and hue; sweet, juicy, summer melon; and crunchy pops of flavor that tie these two seemingly unmatched fruits together... arugula, radish, cucumber, and mint. Oh... and a chili-infused dressing. And, yes, it all (surprisingly) works.
We have a favorite place we stay at in Yountville... a perfect locale for not just enjoying the fruit of this region's nectar, but a truly central position to many wonderful restaurants. And Redd Wood is just a good stroll from this perch, making it not only a great choice for good food but convenient! For us, it was a great spot to enjoy a relaxed, late evening meal tacked onto an equally relaxed, perfect day spent in and amongst the vineyards of this region.
This is my own rendition of the salad we selected at Redd Wood. As said, it incorporates a lot of what summer has to offer and, in particular, two ingredients you might not think to couple: heirloom tomatoes and cantaloupe. Then it pops these two ingredients with the addition of radish and arugula... flavors that kind of turn the lights on in this salad. And, unexpectedly, dresses it all in a light, chili-infused vinaigrette which illuminates the flavor of this salad but also keeps it so approachable.
In my version, I use a jalapeño pepper and tempered its robust flavor with a bit of honey, fresh orange juice and a little cayenne pepper.
It's kind of summer at its best... bountiful, bold... and balanced.