Despite the somewhat regressive weather, summer is hard upon us, with its potlucks, athletic events, and picnics. Here’s an easy but elegant idea for an appetizer.
Prosciutto di Parma is an air-cured ham from the hills in the region of Parma, Italy. Only hams from a limited area (called a Protected Designation of Origin) and only hams of a particular quality receive the special firebrand crown of Prosciutto di Parma.
While most preserved meats today contain added nitrates or nitrites as preservatives, the only ingredients in a true Prosciutto di Parma are pork and salt. Salt is used to draw moisture from the fresh meat in a skillful process that has its origin in Roman times. This concentrates the flavor, while little of the salt enters the ham. Prosciutto di Parma must be aged at least one year; some are cured for as long as three years, resulting in a rich, dense, savory flavor.
The strict rules of the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma guarantee that true Proscuitto di Parma has no added preservatives, colorants, or anything other than “pork, salt, air, and time.”
The pork is special, too–the pigs it comes from are fed a specially controlled diet of grains, cereals, and the whey left over from the making of Parmigiano Reggiano, which imparts a nutty flavor to the meat.
The Kiva carries a Prosciutto di Parma from Beretta, which is presliced (presliced in Parma, according to the rules of the Parma Ham Consortium!) for convenience. One package contains eight slices, ready to use, with convenient separators.
For about 14 to 16 appetizers, you will need:
Eight thin slices of prosciutto (you will end up with some scraps and shreds, which can be used any way you like. This recipe can be made with any good quality prosciutto, though not all are as rich or complex in flavor as Prosciutto di Parma)
Enough watermelon to provide 14 to 16 one to one-and-a-half inch cubes (whatever seems bite-sized to you)
A few fresh basil leaves
Toothpicks and a serving plate
And that’s it! Kazar used strawberries and parsley as a garnish to make a nice presentation; they will also offer a nice flavor contrast to cleanse your palate between bites.
To form the prosciutto roses:
Keep the slices you are not working on cold, in the refrigerator or on ice; they will be easier to work with. Cut or separate the prosciutto slices lengthwise and roll them up, starting with a tight coil in the center and loosen as you go. Flair the top of the “petals” out with your fingers, or use a toothpick as a sculpting tool. Practice makes perfect in this endeavor.
Don’t go overboard on the basil; a small leaf or half of a large one is sufficient.
To hold this little flavor bomb together, insert the toothpick as shown in the photo, over the outer edge of the prosciutto and through its center into the watermelon.
Consume while fresh.
What does it taste like? Our cheese czar, Kazar, says, “There is a rush of sweet, luscious juice; strong aromatics and anise tones from the basil, finishing with the chewy, parmesan-like saltiness of the prosciutto. The aromatics linger. It’s a full spectrum of flavor: sweet, herbal, salty, sharp.”