Sunday, January 16, 2005

Melon and Prosciutto

from Jacques Pépin's Fast Food My Way

Melon and prosciutto is a classic first course, excellent as a summer starter. Depending on the quality of the melon and the ham, this dish can be great or ordinary. I favor muskmelons, known as contaloupes in the United States. Sometimes, at Connecticut farm markets, I can find the French cantaloupe, the charentais, of which threr are many types, some with netted and some with smooth skin, including the Cavaillon. My favorite ham is the Spanish Serrano, shaved very thin. Parma ham (prosciutto) is also excellent. Both are available at good delicatessens and specialty markets.

1 ripe melon (about 1 3/4 pounds)
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
3-4 ounces thinly shaved prosciutto or Serrano ham

Using a paring knife, peel the melon as you would an apple, removing the outer skin and any green parts underneath. Cut a slice from the melon to expose the seeds, then remove them. Cut the melon into 1 1/2-inch pieces. (You should have about 4 cups.)

At serving time, put 1 cup of the melon pieces on each of four plates. Sprinkle each serving with 1 teaspoon of the lemon juice, and divide the salt and pepper among the individual servings. Drape the prosciutto over the melon and serve immediately.

Serves 4

About melons

Make sure that you buy a ripe melon. It should be heavy and fragrant.

Note: you can also make apetizer sized balls wrapped with prosciutto and serve them with toothpicks.

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