Smoky, spicy watermelon and prosciutto bites with goat cheese and mint
One of the weirdest things about this crazy year we’ve had is that my concept of seasons and time is completely off. We spent most of what should have been winter in South America and Southeast Asia, where it was plenty sunny and warm, then most of what should have been late spring/early summer in wet, cold, waterlogged Central Europe (aside from our last few blisteringly hot days in Budapest). We’ve been moving so much that we’ve become a little untethered, and I regularly find myself blanking on what day it is, what month it is, and sometimes even what city or country I’m in at the moment (that last one is a little disarming).
But now we’re back in the United States, and back for good, and I’m finally feeling a little more grounded in time and space. Here in Portland it’s definitely summer, despite a bit of rain. The markets are full of berries and tomatoes, there’s plenty of light late into the evenings, and the stores are full of supplies for picnics and camping and outdoor adventures.
So the recipe I’m sharing here is perfect for summer, wherever you are – quick and easy to do with no heat, great for entertaining or bringing to parties or picnics, and light and refreshing for when things are a bit hot and steamy outside.
I suppose these would be perfect for any season, really, but I’m aiming to get myself rooted in this one.
I made these last night (or, rather, I supervised the making of them) as part of a tapas class I taught for my beloved aunt-in-law Leslie and some other family and friends. I gave her the class as a Christmas present in 2011, but since we’re usually only in town for the holidays it didn’t come together until now. I’m glad she pushed us to do it this weekend; on my own accord I probably would have given excuses about how we were just getting back into the country, or about how I would need to get back to my cookbooks and notes (which are all in Eugene) to prepare, or about how I’d feel so rusty after not cooking for much of the last year. But it came together just fine, of course, and it felt so, so good to get back into teaching. I love sharing the experience of cooking with other people, and I love talking about food, and I love helping people feel excited and confident about things they make.
After dinner we all talked about our favorite dish from the evening, among the nine different things we made. There was pretty good coverage among the group and the menu, and for me it was no question – the watermelon skewers. Cubes of melon sprinkled with spicy, smoky Spanish paprika, topped with a pinch of goat cheese and wrapped with a strip of prosciutto, all sprinkled with fresh chopped mint from Grandpa Ed’s garden. Crunchy, creamy, sweet, spicy, salty. We skewered each bite with frilly cocktail toothpicks, although that probably wasn’t necessary, and piled them high on a serving platter among all the other dishes we made together. Then we sat on the back patio until way past dark, eating too much and drinking plenty of white sangria and fino sherry.
It was pretty good.
A quick note before we get to the recipe: In the past couple of weeks I’ve written some guest posts for other blogs – one is a post about finding authentic food while traveling over at Indie Travel Podcast, and another is a piece about how cooking while we’ve been traveling has been really important to us, over at A Denver Home Companion. You should probably go read them now, and then go buy some watermelon.
Watermelon bites with prosciutto, goat cheese, smoked paprika, and mint
It’s entirely silly to put quantities in this recipe, since you can really make as much as you like. For reference, we used about 1/4 of a medium watermelon, 3 ounces of prosciutto, a golf ball-sized knob of goat cheese, a healthy pinch of paprika, and a few big mint leaves for that platter above.
- Seedless watermelon, cut into cubes – I use basically this method, though I’m not nearly so speedy. (This page outlines basically the same thing, if you don’t want to watch a video.) (But really the video is very short and kind of amazing, so you probably should.)
- Prosciutto, serrano, or other thinly sliced cured ham, cut into strips about 1″ wide and 2-3″ long (I love to use kitchen shears for this, and if the meat comes with waxed paper between the slices I just keep those in there and cut them along with the meat)
- Goat cheese
- Pinch of smoked hot Spanish paprika – if you don’t have this, good substitutes would be: other types of hot paprika (like Hungarian), a mix of sweet paprika and cayenne, or chili powder. But the smokiness is particularly great – if you have a store with a bulk spice section, consider buying just a big pinch of the smoked stuff to use for this recipe.
- A few leaves of fresh mint, chopped
– Assemble the dish: Sprinkle the paprika over the watermelon cubes. Place a pinch of goat cheese together with each cube of watermelon and wrap in a piece of prosciutto, skewering with a toothpick if you like. Spread or pile on a serving dish and sprinkle with chopped mint.