(Featuring completely unsolicited advice on olive oil)
The scene: it's a beautiful spring/summer day. But it's hot. Really, really hot. Despite that, you and your Best One did something outside and active. Took a run or a bike ride. A hike. Built a gazebo in your backyard. Played with your kids, all of whom are under the age of 10 and, as a result, completely impervious to heat as long as you remember to spray water on them every now and again.
You're hot. You're sweaty. In a good way. You want a snack. You, dude, probably want chips and guacamole or some other absurdly heavy thing. 'Cause you're a dude. Tougher still, you're an American Dude. And that's how our limited brains work.
Tell your Best One to get a cold drink and kick back in the shade. You'll be back in 10 minutes (if you move really slow) with something refreshing and restoring. She doesn't believe you but because she loves you, she pretends to. I got something for you that doesn't require any actual cooking. I got something that doesn't require plugging in so much as a blender.
Cantaloupe with Prosciutto
Yeah - I said cantaloupe with prosciutto. A few years back, Jill and the girls and I went to Italy. We hiked the Cinque Terra Trail on a hot summer day when the temp got up above 100. Did we get up early and leave when it was just light and would be cooler so the start of the trail, the hard part, could be done in relative comfort? Hell, no. We left at noon when the temp was at its zenith. 2 hours in we stopped at the next town and got some lunch. We had this remarkably easy dish. It was perfect.
A cantaloupe. 1 cantaloupe. Just one. Big, small, whatever.
1 3oz-4oz packet of prosciutto (you can find this at pretty much any grocery store deli section)
Ground Black Pepper (totally not optional)
Really good olive oil (we'll come back to that)a
That's it on ingredients.
A cutting board
That's it on equipment. It's going to take me far longer to write this than it takes to make and consume it. It's that easy. I'm gonna walk you through it.
The longest time investment is taking the rind of the cantaloupe and cutting it. That's how I like to roll...just because it's fun to play with knives and I like to play with my food. And because there are added benefits if you're preparing this with your Best One instead of for her...keep reading, that'll eventually make sense. If you want to cheat (cheat meaning here to take a smart shortcut) buy a pack of pre-cut cantaloupe at the store. Then this dish takes about 90 seconds to throw together.
If you're like me and you want to wield a sharp thing, here's what you do...
Cut off both ends of the cantaloupe so you have a relatively flat part and can set that flat part (either one, there it no right side up) on the cutting board.
Take your knife and at the top, get it just under the rind's edge and slowly, carefully, cut all the way down to the bottom keeping inside the green line that represents the end of the rind. We'll clean up the bottom in a minute. Keep rotating the melon until you have the rind removed. You'll almost certainly have a few green, rind-y parts left. Remove them by just barely slicing below green with your knife or take another shortcut and use a veggie peeler. Turn the cantaloupe upside down and do the same thing with what had been the bottom, trimming off the rest of the rind.
Set the melon on its side and cut it in half exposing the pulpy, seed-filled interior. This is the primary reason I like to do this by hand. It's rather sensual with vague sexual undertones. If you need me to explain that, you and your Best One may have some bigger challenges than this recipe can possibly address. One of the unspoken joys of cooking with your girl is its sensual and tactile, that can provide a helluva point of departure. When Jill and I would make this together, right around this point we could get...distracted...and it might be a bit before we finished the recipe. I mean, this is a yummy dish but...priorities.
Using the spoon, gently scrape out the pulp and seeds.
Flip both halves so that the concave part is facing down. Holding it together (the cantaloupe, not your mental state...seriously, dude, you might need some meds), make four or five slices all the way through, Now cut across those slices. Voila...melon chunks. You might have some big chunks. If you do and that troubles you, cut them in half. It ain't hard.
Arrange the melon chunks on a plate. Now, the part that might freak you out. This is why I've made it optional. I don't want to unnerve you now that you're almost done. Take a pinch of salt between your thumb and forefinger, which isn't much, and sprinkle it over the melon. If the cantaloupe is very ripe and super sweet, you don't need to do this. If it's a big early in the season, the salt will bring out the sweet undertones of the cantaloupe. I know, that doesn't make sense. Just try it.
Open up the prosciutto. As you tear each slice out of the packet, randomly tear it into 3-4 smaller bits and kind of fold them and mix them in with the melons. Repeat until you feel like you have enough. Chances are if it's just the two of you, you'll use half the melon and half the prosciutto. Just store the other halves and you're good to go again tomorrow.
Then, you're gonna take a good amount of pepper (I use a grinder and do 8-10 grinds). Finally, you're going to get some good olive oil...and drizzle just a few drops. Do this either by getting a pouring spout that drizzles it slowly, or do what I do and hold your thumb over the top of the bottle while pouring so you can keep it at a really stingy drizzle. You just want a hint of it drizzled around. Maybe 2 tsps worth but I've never measured it.
A note on olive oil. The health benefits of olive oil, genuine extra virgin olive oil, are extraordinary. Google it. Most of the olive oils we buy in mainline grocery stores are not very good. They are labeled extra virgin (which is the tastiest and healthiest kind) but they are not. If you can, order from or find a vendor in your town who is affiliated with Veronica Foods. They're the best distributor in the US. And/or check out this link to learn about great olive oil vendors near you. If you don't have any or if that's a pain in the ass, or if you're looking at the prices and thinking, "wtf?", the best thing I've found widely available in grocery stores (from Whole Foods to your local big ass grocer) at a reasonable price is California Olive Ranch (also easily available via Amazon). If you're down in other Phoenix area there's Queen Creek Olive Mill, which is available at most farmer's markets in the area and, if you feel like making the trek, is a fun place to go with kids and take the tour and shop and get some of the crazy good food they serve up down there.
You're done unless you want to really show off. If you gotta a few leaves of basil, tear them and distribute throughout. On a really hot day, mint is really refreshing, just chop up some leaves and sprinkle. Parsley works, too. Some folks through mozzarella in. I'm not a fan of that but if you do it you need something like mozzarella...fresh, very mild flavor, and not salty (the prosciutto has that part covered.
I kinda like it just like this, in its simplest form. You get the freshness and mild sweetness of the cantaloupe and the salty heft of the prosciutto to counter it. The pepper adds a nice, and unexpected, bit of zing. Get yourself a cold drink and a couple of forks (or not, it's fun and very visceral to eat it with your hands) and carry the plate out to your Best One. If you have a brain in your head and you're looking at her and thinking..."yeah...after all these years you still totally rock me"...get a chunk of melon and a little piece of proscuttio and feed it to her. Trust me on this. Just a dude trying' to help a dude out.