Prosciutto and Melon Panzanella
When two classics of the Italian summer collide into one delicious dish | What I've been reading, watching, and cooking in August
September is behind the corner, the figs are ripening on the tree, and I don’t know if ready for the next season.
I’m relieved that summer vegetables will probably stick around for a couple of more months and that temperatures will hopefully drop down a bit after this unbearable sultry summer, but I’m not ready to abandon the more casual rhythms given by longer days, the dinners in the garden, and that general freedom granted by the summer months.
That’s why there are still a few summer recipes that I want to share with you, and today we start with the first one, a long-form article on the blog about two classics of the Italian summer that collide into one delicious dish: prosciutto and melon panzanella.
Prosciutto and Melon Panzanella
Recipe in collaboration with Consorzio Melone Mantovano PGI
A couple of years ago, my father-in-law – renowned for being the food hunter of the family – brought us a box of melons from Mantua, and stated that those were the best melons you could find in Italy. They were sweet, juicy, and slightly spiced.
I was therefore extremely excited when the Melone Mantovano PGI consortium contacted us to develop two recipes with their products. The consortium gathers farmers in the province of Mantua and in the neighbouring provinces of Cremona, Modena, Bologna, and Ferrara, a land devoted to the melon for centuries.
On a hot summer afternoon, though, while tidying up after a cooking class, I found myself nibbling at some leftovers and I had a brainwave born from the casual pairing of prosciutto and melone and another classic Tuscan summer dish, probably the most iconic, panzanella.
Panzanella is a stale bread salad rich with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and fresh basil leaves, dressed with extra virgin olive oil and vinegar. During this sultry summer, I ate my weight in panzanella: it doesn’t require cooking, just a bunch of seasonal ingredients and pantry staples, it is filling, and refreshing, and it helped me upcycle the large quantity of stale bread I accumulated over the weeks, while I was twitching my basic recipe for sourdough bread.
The sweet and salty flavours of prosciutto and melon mingled with the vinegary, aromatic notes of panzanella, and right there, standing at the counter of my messy kitchen, this new dish was born.
The recipe is easy, seasonal, unexpected, and beyond delicious. Please give it a try and let me know what you think!
And what do you like to pair melon with? A drizzle of elderflower syrup or crumbled feta? Are you a sweet or savouy person? Let me know in the comments!
WHAT TO EXPECT NEXT
Tommaso will soon resume his Postcards from Tuscany, which is a real hit in this community. I’m so happy he finally found this outlet for his creativity and for his immense archive of photos.
Our cookbook is going to print soon! This means we’ll soon be able to start talking about it, sharing behind-the-scenes and more info about this exciting, new project.
Stay tuned for another recipe with melon, and more guests for the Q&A on people pantries, along with new recipes, and more long-read essays (something I’ve been trying to do for months, but you know, time flies).
WHAT I’VE BEEN READING, WATCHING, COOKING
I started reading The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters, after having had that title on my to-read list for decades. It is comforting, soothing, and refreshing. I had always admired her as a woman, chef, and ideologist, but after reading the book I understood why I had this innate respect for her. Every word really resonated with me, I found my way of cooking and thinking about food written down with concise, inspiring words.
“Good cooking is no mystery. You don’t need years of culinary training, or rare and costly foodstuffs, or an encyclopedic knowledge of world cuisines. You need only your own five senses. You need good ingredients, too, of course, but in order to choose and prepare them, you need to experience them fully.”
“Eating seasonally inspires your menus, gives you a sense of time and place, and rewards you with the most flavorful food.”
“What makes a good meal is not how fancy it is or how difficult and complicated the preparations are, but how satisfying it is. I’m satisfied when a meal balances flavor, color, and texture, when I’ve enjoyed cooking it, and when it is presented with care.”
Waiting for the next season, which will be aired on October 16th, I finally had the time to catch up with Season 5 of Somebody Feed Phil. We watched the first episode on the night of my birthday eating takeaway sushi, and I could not imagine a better way to end up my day. Phil Rosenthal is enthusiastic and gleeful, he shares a genuine love for food and makes me want to travel the world in search of the next best meal.
I don’t know how I ended up subscribing to Things Worth Knowing with Farrah Storr, but I am thankful for this fortunate event. Reading one of her posts, Do you skew senior?, I met this new trend happening on social media and in antique shops across the Uk known as Nana Normcore. I didn’t know my ideal lifestyle had a name, but if you move this dream to the Tuscan countryside, that is my goal for life.
Tomatoes were the main protagonists of this summer month, and I cooked them in many ways:
Tomato-butter pasta. I didn’t see the point of grating tomatoes until I tried this recipe. [from the NYT Cooking]
Basil and tomato fried rice. I always cook rice in large amounts, so this this recipe was just perfect for us. [from the NYT Cooking]
Panzanella, of course, but we’ll talk more about panzanella and bread salads next week (spoiler). [from the blog archive]
Crudaiola, a raw tomato sauce for pasta. [from the blog archive]
Also, don’t miss one of the latest articles all bout tomatoes.
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Luv this issue!
Looks delicious. I will be making this for friends this weekend. I enjoy hearing for you.