Mint Jicama Cantaloupe Salad with Toasted Pepitas


Mint Jicama Cantaloupe Salad with Toasted Pepitas

I’m chopping up this mint jicama cantaloupe salad while practicing my breathing. The world said goodbye to a magic maker last week – unexpectedly too early. Two, actually. Just two weeks ago, I woke up to a group message to the 2007 cast of The Ash Girl. It was our former director letting us know of the sudden passing of our Prince Rocky, who suffered a heart attack – “So sad. I’ll see you tomorrow at the service. Best to all ❤.”

These were his last words to us. Last weekend, by way of his own heart attack, Paul Backer joined Rocky wherever they are (acting silly somewhere, I’m sure). The world is less energetic, goofy, loving, and creative without these two souls. I found out about Paul’s passing as I was writing about my sleepwalking nightmare, which would have tickled him.

Mint Jicama Cantaloupe Salad with Toasted Pepitas

You see, Paul became my director over the recounting of a dream. And not a normal one either (does anyone have normal dreams? I don’t). As part of my call back, he asked me to describe a recent dream. I GOT THIS, I thought. I have the most vivid dreams and people love hearing about them (ha! okay, maybe I just love telling people about them…SAME THING). My dream concert had something to do with sitting on seats on the back of a small riverboat that looked like a silver dump truck. Maybe there were pirates. Probably a tidal wave. Definitely wild.

And when Paul pasted the cast list up with my name next to The Fairy Godmother – a role I had not read for – he basically said, “When you told the story of your dream, you were absurdly colorful and detailed, but you were a wacko – all over the place! That’s who this fairy godmother is. Think Lisa Kudrow as a fairy godmother.” Sarah = a fairy godmother who mixes up all her spells. Sounds about right.

Mint Jicama Cantaloupe Salad with Toasted PepitasMint Jicama Cantaloupe Salad with Toasted Pepitas

Paul cast people first, actors second. Through the run, The Ash Girl (Anne) and I grew close, as one would expect a girl and her fairy godmother to do. Paul later admitted that he planned that too – “you both seemed like you could use each other in your lives.” He was right – Anne was a godsend in my life and Paul, a magic maker.

In his absence, years and years of former students reminisced, “he always wished me a Happy Birthday on Facebook.” And more than that – he remembered a specific fact about that person and referenced it in his birthday note (for me, he made a corny math joke on my wall every year since I graduated). His love of people was unparalleled.

Mint Jicama Cantaloupe Salad with Toasted Pepitas

“Always begin and return to breath” was Paul’s mantra. And so now we breathe.

We’re having salad today. It doesn’t sum up Paul or really have anything to do with his memory, but it’s what we’re doing. No cooking, just chopping, we breathe and make salad. Succulent cantaloupe contrasts the distinct crunch of jicama, and, tossed with creamy French feta, sharp mint, splashes of citrus, and nutty toasted pepitas, this summer salad is packed with diverse textures and flavors. Served atop a piece of fish or as a side at a BBQ, this mint jicama cantaloupe salad breathes life into summer.

Mint Jicama Cantaloupe Salad with Toasted Pepitas

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Mint Jicama Cantaloupe Salad with Toasted Pepitas
Yields: 4 side servings
Toasted Pepitas
  • ¼ cup toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • ⅛ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
Mint Jicama Cantaloupe Salad
  • 1½ lb cantaloupe, chopped into ½-inch pieces (about 4-5 cups chopped)
  • 1 lb jicama, peeled* and cut into matchsticks (about 2.5 cups cut)
  • Juice of 1 orange (about ¼ cup)
  • Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Zest of two limes
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 2 ounces French feta cheese (or any feta)
  • 2-3 tablespoons freshly chopped mint leaves
Toasted Pepitas
  1. Toss the pepitas with olive oil and salt in a small pan.
  2. Toast over medium-low heat until lightly browned and beginning to pop, about 6-8 minutes.
Mint Jicama Cantaloupe Salad
  1. Toss the cantaloupe, jicama, orange juice, lime juice and zest, olive oil, and salt together in a large bowl.
  2. Just before serving toss in the toasted pepitas, feta, and chopped mint.

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  1. I’m sorry to hear about the passing of two beloved friends, Sarah. People who influence our lives and world in such positive ways is difficult to accept. So I can see why chopping would be in order.. breathing deep and reflecting.

    I’ve a big jicama on my counter I’ve been contemplating for over a week. I love the combination of flavors in this salad.. so refreshing and vibrant. Tight hugs. xo

    • Thank you, Traci. While I haven’t seen him in years, it’s hard to imagine he won’t be in the School of Theatre anymore – he touched so many lives!

      Bust out that jicama and get going, girl! I’m coming for lunch.

  2. Veronica says:

    Dear Sarah so sorry to hear of their passing. This passage is written in my Family cookbook ” Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same” Flavia. A prayer for a safe journey. Your salad would make a perfect side dish for those wonderful summer cookouts!

  3. Sarah, I’m so sorry to hear of their passing. Find comfort knowing that you have guardian angels watching over you . Lots of hugs and prayers. And this salad, looks dreamy.

  4. Marissa says:

    Sarah, I’m so sorry. What a blow to lose two people dear to you in such a short span of time. Your tribute brought tears to my eyes.

    Let’s swap dream stories some time. I’ve always thought mine were particularly crazy (rowing a slice of quiche across the Puget Sound, and half basset hound half dolphins in the pool, etc.) But it sounds like you have some doozies too.

    Your salad looks delicious. I love the combination of flavors and texture, really speaks of the peak of summer.

    Hang in there my dear and yes, breathe…

    • Thanks Marissa. You’re so sweet. While I haven’t stayed in close touch with either of them, they both touched my life and that of so many people. Their legacy will live on for sure!

      And UM YES. That dream sounds awesome. Can you please record a YouTube video of you acting it out?? :)


  5. naomi says:

    That’s so terrible. I ‘m so sorry. Sending you the biggest hugs!

    The salad – like all your food – so gorgeous and full of flavor.

  6. Amanda Paa says:

    i’m so sorry for not one but two losses of very special people in your life. it sounds like they had a profound impact on you, and all the others they touched. sometimes reminding to breathe is the only thing i can do in times of grief as well, and i’m glad that pause and this lovely salad is helping you along.

    all the love, amanda

  7. Sad to hear such sad news, thinking of you!

  8. :( I’m sorry Sarah. What a hard week.

  9. Aysegul says:

    I don’t even know why I have tears in my eyes as I read this. But I guess, I know how it feels to love and loose someone with so much personality and has been a part of my life in so many good ways. I hope that Paul and Rocky are looking down from wherever they are and applauding you for all the breathing you do. I know that sometimes it easier said than done, but I hope you’ll find the strength to continue to breath and cherish the memories of good friends. After all, memories are all that we are left with. Aren’t they?

    On a different note, my husband and I love jicama. It is one of those vegetables that were in abundance while we were living in the Caribbean. This salad looks so good and sounds like a great use of jicama.

    Sending you lots of love and virtual hugs. My deepest condolences my friend…

    PS: I just made a smoothie bowl with cantaloupe and toasted pepitas. Isn’t the combination so delicious?

    • Thank you so much for your sweet words, Aysegul. It’s interesting to me how people who I haven’t really spoken with in several years, save for the occasional Happy Birthday on FB, can leave such a profound mark on my life in their absence. Paul definitely feels like a guardian angel over all of his former students/actors – i think everyone can feel his presence still.

      And yes!! I literally ate chopped cantaloupe with toasted pepitas on it for dessert the other night. Lucas thought I was crazy haha. They complement each other so well!!

  10. Carla says:

    Oh, I’m so so so sorry. He sounds like such an incredibly lovely soul and I’m so glad that you got to share him with all those other students whose lives he touched in big AND little ways. xo

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