Not Your Average Melon
Melon and prosciutto.
Ho-hum. Been there, ate that.
But not like this.
Not when the cantaloupe cavity is filled with molten mozzarella before being draped with thin slices of salty-sweet prosciutto, and seasoned liberally with salt, pepper, and lush olive oil.
“Broiled Cantaloupe with Hand-Stretched Mozzarella Curds and Prosciutto” takes a familiar taste and turns it on its head.
The genius recipe is from the new cookbook, “Around the Fire: Recipes For Inspired Grilling and Seasonal Feasting From Ox Restaurant” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy.
It’s by husband-and-wife chefs Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quinonez Denton, with assistance from food writer Stacy Adimando. They are the chefs of the critically acclaimed Ox in Portland, OR.
The inventive recipes focus on grilling for the most part — in dishes such as “Coal-Roasted Oysters on the Half-Shell with Chimi Mayo and Manchego,” “Grilled Duck Breasts with Brandied Cherries,” and “Grilled Mackerel with Charred Poblano Romesco and Pickled Red Onion.”
While you can make the cantaloupe dish on a grill (see instructions below), it’s easier and more dramatic looking to make it with the broiler.
It couldn’t be easier — just fill cantaloupe halves with mozzarella that’s been tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper. Stick them under the broiler, turning and stretching the mozzarella a few times, until the cheese has melted all the way through. It takes less than 12 minutes.
Then garnish with prosciutto, a little drizzle of olive oil, and chopped fresh parsley.
Even after broiling, the sweet, musky melon is still firm — not mushy. Enjoying it warm adds another level, a somehow comforting one at that. The saltiness from the prosciutto and the spiciness of the black pepper make this a rather savory dish. And who doesn’t like the surprise of gooey melted cheese underneath it all?
It’s delicious as is; or cut off a piece of cheesy melon and prosciutto and slap them on a slice of grilled bread for another way to enjoy this satisfying summer-time dish.
Broiled Cantaloupe with Hand-Stretched Mozzarella Curds and Prosciutto
1 small, firm cantaloupe (about 4 pounds)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces mozzarella curds or low-moisture mozzarella
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Preheat a broiler and seat a rack on top of the oven. Place the cantaloupe on a cutting board and slice off the stem end and its opposite end to create two flat surfaces. Make a parallel slice to cut the melon in half; remove and discard the seeds.
Place each half, cut side down, on a work surface; trim away the skin with a sharp chef’s knife. Flip the halves over and rub each inside and out with 2 tablespoons of the oil; season all over with salt and pepper.
Crumble the mozzarella curds (or break up the mozzarella cheese into small pieces, if substituting) into a bowl; season generously with salt, pepper, and 1/4 cup of the oil and toss well. Fill the inside of the melon halves with the mixture. Place the melon in a 10-inch cast-iron pan (or any other heat-resistant pan) to fit snugly.
Set the pan that holds the cantaloupe on the top rack just below the broiler. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the cheese curds start to brown. Stir with a spoon, flipping the melted part under and the uncooked cheese on top. Broil another 3 minutes, then stir again, pulling and stretching the cheese to look like melted mozzarella. If the curds are not melting in this time, flip the cheese inside the cantaloupe again and continue cooking and flipping the cheese as needed, no more than 12 minutes total.
Place the melon halves on a cutting board and let rest for 3 minutes so the cheese can firm up slightly. Slice each in half and transfer to four serving dishes. Drape each melon quarter with two to three slices of prosciutto, then drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Garnish with parsley and serve.
Note: To make this dish on the grill instead, prepare a grill to high heat, then slice the peeled melon into 2-inch-thick wedges. Brush the wedges with oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill them on both sides until lightly charred (about 4 minutes total). Plate and top with the prosciutto and 1/4 pound thinly sliced fresh mozzarella (instead of the mozzarella curds — which you can find online or at specialty cheese shops — or dry pizza mozzarella listed in the recipe ingredients.)
From “Around the Fire” by Gregg Denton and Gabrielle Quinonez Denton with Stacy Adimando
More Melon Recipes to Try: Cantaloupe Cake