Saturday, August 9, 2008

Prosciutto & Melon in Sambuca

When discussing Dishes to Start a Meal, Judy Rodgers says

The appetizers in this book fall into several categories, but all aim to pique the appetite, rather than stun it with complexity or quantity. Small portioning is an obvious strategy for first courses, but I like the little nibble to be big enough to allow you to appreciate the ingredients.
Page 72 

When it comes to liking (or disliking) licorice, there doesn't seem to be much middle ground. I've never heard anyone say "Licorice? I can take it or leave it." I have a theory that there is a "licorice" gene. There are whole countries - Holland and Australia - where it seems to be an obsession. If this is true, I definitely have the gene.

So based o
n my love of anything anise, when I was choosing a first starter to make from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, I picked this one. It's not exactly a recipe; it's more like an assembling of pristine ingredients.

We use Parma prosciutto at Zuni, choosing brands that are deep, fleshy pink and firm but not hard...San Daniele can be an excellent choice as well.  Fine, sweet-salty, satiny prosciutto tolerates nothing but elegance on its plate - in particular, succulent, low-acid fruit.
Pages 79 and 80 

Prosciutto & Melon in Sambuca
Dishes to Start a Meal, Page 82

When I moved back to New York City, Paradise Market was open at 83rd and Madison. It was the size of a rather small jewelry shop, and the produce there was treated the same way Tiffany treats diamonds. Each piece absolutely perfect and carefully arranged in glorious display.

One day
I was shopping in Paradise, and I glanced out of the window. Staring into the window were two people I had known when I lived in Atlanta. They weren't looking at me; they were looking at the glorious fruits and vegetables.

Paradise has been closed for a few years now. 
The location has had a number of incarnations - a lingerie shop, a cashmere shop; now it's a chocolate shop. Whenever I walk by, I think about the owner, Mr. Roh, beaming happily among his fruits and vegetables, and, like Milton, I miss Paradise. 

I believe Eli's has the most beautiful produce department in the City now that Paradise is gone so I headed there and got a fragrant cantaloupe.  I also got a few slices each of Prosciutto di Parma (on the left) and San Danielle (on the right) so I could try them both.

The dish was salty, sweet, and juicy with a faint anise flavor, not strong at all, actually rather elusive, more of a scent than an actual taste. We ate it as the main event at lunch. I loved it.

As usual, Sylvano wa
s hanging out with me in the kitchen.


MichaelG said...

I'm enjoying your blog. You're writing reads like you are starting to find your voice. I like it! What's your take on the Prosciutto de Parma Vs. San Danielle?

Adrienne said...

Well that looks delicious and summery! And I'm excited for what's next - I made the Zuni roast chicken last night and it was OUT of this world.

hanne hanne said...

The sambuca does seem inspired. I mean, prosciutto and melon on their own are pretty divine, but the added anise? I love it! Can wait for the roast chicken!

EB said...

What an interesting combo. I am a genetic lover of licorice too. (It come from my mother's side of the family) :)

oh so hungry said...

Ditto here on the Prosciutto de Parma vs. San Danielle taste comparisons. Inquiring minds need to know.

I made the roast chicken Sunday night and it was amazingly delicious. The oven. Not so much. That was a Monday night clean-up project.

white on rice couple said...

What a lovely summer combination of melons and prosciutto(or any cured meat). We've been finding so many different melons, they are all wonderful. I would like to try this recipe with some organic Sharlyn melons we are currently enjoying. If I can get some extra good ones, I'd love to send you one if you haven't already tried one!

I'm especially excited to discover this new flavor of crushed fennel seeds on the melons.
BTW-lovely mortar!

And, Todd just LOVES black Aussie licorice. It's is favorite and always a staple in the pantry!

Saffoula said...

You are absolutely right about the lovers vs. haters of licorice. I get my love from both sides, my paternal grandfather who we counted on to eat the black jelly beans and my mother's Greek family. In Greece they sell anise-flavored hard candies, which I highly recommend for all anise lovers!

Victoria said...

Michael and Oh So Hungry,

When I made this, I didn't notice a big difference between San Daniele Prosciutto and Prosciutto di Parma so I went back to Eli's and got some more to do a taste comparison side by side with nothing else. They were both delicious, and the difference was slight and very subtle. I found the Prosciutto di Parma to be slightly silkier and slightly sweeter, and it was my favorite. But that is truly splitting hairs. It's like comparing a Rolls Royce with a Bentley.