For a Provencal cooking class I taught last week, I chose melon and prosciutto brochettes as an opener. Although there were several show-stopper dishes on the menu, including grilled lamb chops topped with Roquefort and figs, and a glorious tiramisu prepared with strawberries and raspberries, those simple skewers were a huge hit with the students.
Wedges of perfectly ripened cantaloupe, ribbons of paper-thin prosciutto, and little
balls of fresh mozzarella, are speared and drizzled with quickly made basil-scented olive oil. The students arranged the brochettes (they made a triple recipe) on a platter, and then transferred them to small plates along with a good drizzle of the basil oil.
I’ve been making these brochettes, one of my all-time favorite dishes for hot summer days, for over twenty years since I first tasted them at a friend’s house in the south of France. Sometimes, I even offer them as a refreshing side dish to grilled chicken or fish. They can be prepared a couple of hours in advance so that no last-minute fuss is necessary. Keep this recipe in mind for your next summer lunch or supper!
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Brochettes of Melon, Prosciutto, and Fresh Mozzarella Balls Drizzled with Basil-scented Olive Oil
1 bunch fresh basil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium clove garlic, peeled
1 small (about 2 pounds) ripe cantaloupe (See cooking tip.)
8 paper-thin slices best quality prosciutto
8 small balls of fresh mozzarella di buffala or one large (6 to 7 ounce) ball of fresh mozzarella di buffala
8 metal or wooden skewers
1. Pull off 16 large basil leaves: rinse them and pat dry. Rinse and dry remaining basil and reserve for garnish.
2. Combine olive oil, garlic, and basil leaves in a food processor or blender and process, pulsing machine several times, until the basil and garlic are finely chopped and blended into the oil. Transfer to a bowl and stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt. Then taste and add up to 1/4 teaspoon more salt as needed. (The oil can be prepared 2 hours ahead; cover and leave at room temperature.)
3. Halve cantaloupe through the stem and scoop out and discard seeds. Cut each half into 4 wedges. Cut off skin and discard. If your cantaloupe is small (2 pounds), cut each wedge in half, crosswise. If your cantaloupe is larger (3 pounds or more) cut each wedge, crosswise into 3 pieces; set aside 16 pieces, and reserve the remainder for another use.
4. Trim and discard excess fat from the prosciutto slices, then cut each slice in half lengthwise.
5. Drain mozzarella balls or if you are using a large piece of mozzarella, drain and cut it into one-inch cubes.
6. To assemble brochettes, skewer 1 piece of melon. Next, take a strip of prosciutto and gather it together as if you were making a ruffle and skewer it. Next add a mozzarella ball or cube, and follow with a another strip of ruffled prosciutto, and another melon wedge. Repeat to make 7 more skewers. (Skewers can be prepared 2 hours ahead; leave at cool room temperature or cover and refrigerate.)
7. Arrange skewers on a serving platter. Serve on salad plates and drizzle with the basil oil. Garnish each plate with an extra basil sprigs. Serves 8 as a first course.
Cooking tip: In southern France melons such as Charentais or Cavaillon are small, typically weighing under 2 pounds. If you can only find a larger (3 plus pounds) melon, follow the directions in step 3 and cut the wedges into 3 pieces rather than 2.
Adapted from The Big Book of Backyard Cooking by Betty Rosbottom (Chronicle Books 2004) Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2019