en garde: defending against the heat
with fresh melon, herb and prosciutto skewers
The forecast is nothing short of blazing heat in both Los Angeles and France. Too hot to cook. Too hot for heavy food. A plate of ripe melon with thinly-sliced prosciutto is a classic summer pairing. Inspired by the triple digits and my fencing daughter, melon, herb and prosciutto skewers are this week’s simple pleasure.
As I watched my daughter and her co-campers suit up in their fencing gear I thought of how hot they must be. Like a thirsty person in the desert who sees a mirage, when they drew their foils I empathically saw a refreshing snack for these hot fencers: melon balls and cured meats skewered on their foils. The making of these skewers requires little explanation, but I have included a few ingredient notes so you can make the best skewers possible.
Cured meats are perfect for summer because they are light. Lomo, coppa, prosciutto, and jambon are all cured pork products primarily from either Spain or Italy. All taste wonderful with sweet melons.
Parma prosciutto is cured pork leg from Parma, Italy. It is available at many grocery stores (you can buy it pre-packaged although many deli sections carry the leg and slice it for you). If you cannot find imported prosciutto, you can use the domestic prosciutto. Alternatively, you can substitute Spanish cured hams such as Jamón Serrano or Jamón Ibérico (from acorn-fed pata negra pigs), both of which are delicious (the latter is a particular favorite of mine for its rich, nutty flavor).
Coppa and lomo are two other cured pork meats of which many people are not familiar. Coppa is from the back of the head area and Lomo Embuchado is taken from the pork tenderloin. Lomo is imported from Spain and leaner than coppa, jambon or prosciutto. Coppa is sold in many grocery stores (i.e., Whole Foods sells Apple Farms Coppa). Lomo is available in primarily specialty meat or cheese shops but you can easily buy it and other Spanish treats from La Tienda online www.tienda.com.
Summer is the season for melons and you can still find some sweet melons in the market. Melons are hydrating (they are 90 percent water) and low in calories (cantaloupe is 60 calories per diced cup and watermelon is 46).
When it comes to picking a good melon the primary thing you want to look at is where the vine was attached to the melon. There should be a shallow, round indentation with no stem or pieces of stem attached. Stem remains on your melon means that the melon was harvested prematurely (by cutting or pulling) rather than detaching naturally when it was ripe. As a result, the melon will not be as sweet.
Additionally, for cantaloupes the skin under the netting should be the color of straw, without bruises or cuts, and the cantaloupe should feel heavy. If it is fragrant, that is an added bonus. As for watermelons, if you thump the melon it should have a hollow sound. The shade spot (where the melon laid on the ground) should be a golden yellow color. However, if you remember only one thing when picking melons, remember to look for stem remains.
I cannot say enough about the benefit of using fresh herbs in cooking. They add an unparalleled freshness to your food which is key in summer food preparation. Fresh herbs also carry a number of medicinal qualities. For example, both basil and mint have antioxidant properties and basil has anti-inflammatory properties while mint is good for you digestive tract.
Skewers are great for entertaining or casual family barbecues. They eliminate the need for utensils and are fun for both children and adults. They also inspire the perfect portion and are great for parties because you can serve a little of this and a little of that and no one fills up on one thing or on other less nutritious hand-to-mouth snacks.
Preparation time is 10 minutes and these “no labor” skewers are perfect for the upcoming Labor Day weekend. As for that hot weather: en garde !
Je vous souhaite un bon appétit !
melon and herb skewers with prosciutto and lomo
serves 12 (2 skewers each)
what you need:
12 small skewers (metal or wood or stripped bay branches)
1 small beautiful, ripe cantaloupe
12 thin slices Parma (or domestic) prosciutto
12 parmesan slices (optional)
12 fresh basil (or mint) leaves
1 small seedless, ripe watermelon
12 thin slices lomo or coppa (can substitute prosciutto)
12 fresh mint leaves
12 diced pieces of heirloom tomato (optional)
fleur de sel (as needed)
quality virgin olive oil (as needed)
- Prepare Melon. Take a juicy, ripe cantaloupe and using a melon baller, create 12 small melon balls. Alternatively, you can use a mandolin to slice 12 thin strips of cantaloupe (trimmed to 1 inch wide). Use the melon baller to create 12 watermelon balls.
- Skewer. Place one melon ball, one basil or mint leaf and one slice of cured meat on a skewer in a decorative way. For a little something extra, add a slice of aged parmesan to cantaloupe skewer or a dice-sized piece of a heirloom tomato to the watermelon skewer.
- Garnish. Sprinkle a little fleur de sel over skewers and drizzle very lightly with a dash of olive oil.
- Serve. Serve cold.
food for thought
Heat making you thirsty? Watermelon juice
can be brewed to make beer.
Tags: basil, cantaloupe, coppa, easy appetizers, Jamón Ibérico, Jamón Serrano, lomo, melon and fresh herb skewers with prosciutto, mint, Parma prosciutto, simple pleasures, simple starters, watermelon