Market Matters: Melon-choly Summer’s End

I know you have enjoyed the classic pairing of prosciutto and melon. It’s sweet, it’s salty and it is about as good as summer gets!

Well, I could not let summer slip by without featuring this classic summer recipe. So for the very last Market Matters at the Hollywood Farmers Market of this all too short, but glorious summer, I am bringing home a melon. For Sup’s version of Prosciutto with Melon, Anise, and Black Pepper.

I love melon for obvious reasons. When it’s good, it is mind-blowingly good. So once you have had melon of that caliber it’s hard to eat those spongy, pastel-colored cantaloupes from the grocery store. Or worse yet, those green monstrosities that come in prepared “fruit” salads. I don’t quite know how they get away with calling that food. I’d rather eat the plastic box it comes in. That is not a perfect “end of summer” melon.

So please choose your melons well.

prosciutto and melonThe key to choosing good melons is to choose ripe melons. Fortunately, melons are one of the easier items to choose from; whether from your local produce department or your favorite farm stand. The rules are these:

A melon should be heavy for its size.

If it is a variety with netting, like a cantaloupe or Tuscan melon the rind beneath the netting should not be green and raw looking. Though green fleshed varieties may have some green stripes. There is a difference in the green.

If there is still a bit of stem attached, all for the better, it should not be woody. It should be tender without being mushy.

If you are lucky enough to be choosing between melons all from the same plant, then size is a key factor. Contrary to the idea that cute, tiny-baby sized fruits and vegetables are the very best; with melons, bigger is better. These are the fruits that the plant has favored with more nutrients, allowing them to grow big and sweet.

The scent is a good barometer. Sniff the little button at the bottom. Often you will find the sweetest melons give themselves away in this manner. But this is not always the case. So take all these indicators into consideration when choosing.

However, the most important advice I can give to you is simply slow down and enjoy the choosing. Getting the best produce should not be a chore to be rushed through. You are choosing food. It’s an important part of your day. Spend some time giving it the attention it deserves. I think you’ll find, not only will your food taste better (and be better for you), but your blood pressure will drop as well. Making shopping a very healthy endeavor indeed!

Once you get your melon home log onto SippitySup. I hear he has some great recipes that will inspire you!

As for me, I have already decided on the simple perfection of prosciutto and melon.

However, (I may have mentioned this before when we made a cantaloupe lassi earlier this summer) I love the combination of melon and anise.

It adds a wonderfully provocative element to the standard combination of prosciutto and melon.

I was first introduced to this concept through Judy Rodgers and The Zuni Café Cookbook. She does prosciutto with Sambuca macerated cantaloupe as an appetizer. It was one of those moments for me. I think they call it a “shazam!” moment. Because when I first read that recipe I knew instinctively that I was in the presence of a genius! I also knew it would forever change the way I looked at cantaloupe.

meon and procsuitto with anise and black pepperBecause to my thinking at that time prosciutto and melon were already a perfect match. Most of us would simply say, “done and done”… let’s move on. But Judy added the anise flavor and actually improved upon perfection. Not an easy task.

Well since then I have been experimenting with anise and melon in my own modest way. That was how I came to include an anise-flavored liqueur in the aforementioned cantaloupe lassi. And here I am today taking Judy’s combination and simplifying it some in an appetizer of my own. I decided that the addition of good-sized pieces of cracked black pepper added another interesting layer to all the great things already happening on the palate. To me, it balances out the sweet and salty combination with a hint of piquancy.

So that’s my story of how this recipe for Prosciutto with Melon, Anise, and Black Pepper (click here for recipe) was born. I think this recipe is a great way to send summer off in style and thank it for all its bounty.

Next stop autumn, and a whole new chapter at SippitySup!


Greg Henry