Fruit and prosciutto are a culinary marriage whose longevity is based on the successful pairing of salty and sweet flavors. Melon, figs and stone fruit such as peaches, wrapped in paper-thin strips of this Italian cured ham, are traditional quick, refreshing appetizers. But don't be afraid to keep the marriage interesting by adding prosciutto to a variety of nontraditional fresh or grilled fruits.
A Traditional Pairing
Cantaloupe and honeydew melon are two of the fruits most commonly paired with prosciutto ham. Simply pare off the rind and cut the melon into bite-sized pieces. Slice very thin prosciutto into strips about 1 inch wide and wrap a strip around each piece of melon. Apple and pear wedges also work well with prosciutto, but be sure to squeeze fresh citrus juice -- lime or lemon -- over the fruit to prevent discoloration. For an Italian flair, cut fresh figs in half and wrap them in the prosciutto strips.
Alternatively, arrange melon or figs on a serving platter and place the strips of prosciutto underneath or on top of the fruit. For an extra taste sensation, squeeze the juice of a fresh-cut lime over the melon along with a little cracked black pepper before adding the ham. A drizzle of about 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar over the figs gives this appetizer a truly rustic Italian flavor.
A New Twist on an Old Favorite
The beauty of prosciutto is its ability to serve as a complement to almost any kind of fruit. Fresh, peeled peaches, plums or apricots pair well with shaved pieces of the Italian ham. For a tropical twist, wrap or layer prosciutto strips around pieces of mango, papaya, kiwi, pineapple, oranges, grapes or star fruit.
The Principe Food Co. -- a manufacturer of prosciutto ham -- suggests taking the fruit and ham idea further by arranging any combination of tropical fruit on a serving platter and topping the fruit with a puree of raspberries and honey. Add a thin layer of prosciutto on top of the fruit for a bold taste.
Fire Up the Grill
The flavor of fruit intensifies when it's grilled, and combining grilled fruit with prosciutto makes for a sweet and salty appetizer, side dish or even an addition to a salad. Almost any kind of fruit -- from stone fruit such as peaches and plums to melon and citrus -- can be grilled. Peaches and pineapple work especially well grilled, cooled and then topped with wafer-thin slices of prosciutto.
No matter what kind of fruit you use, cut the pieces large enough to prevent them from falling through the rack and onto the coals. Cut soft fruits such as peaches in half and leave the skins on to prevent them from becoming mushy. Always use indirect heat when grilling fruit. Alternatively, if you are using charcoal, allow the coals to nearly die out before placing the fruit onto the grill. Grilling times for fruits vary, so it's best to check the Grilling Fruits and Vegetables chart to ensure your selected fruit is grilled properly.
Pairing Fruit and Prosciutto With Additional Ingredients
The marriage of fruit and prosciutto can stand alone, or it can be the foundation of a more elaborate mix of flavors when it's combined with crostini (small pieces of toasted bread), fresh greens or cheese. For example, add grilled peaches and apricots with prosciutto to a salad along with fresh kale, feta cheese, olive oil and lemon juice. Substitute the kale for baby spinach or arugula and the feta for shaved Parmesan cheese for a variation.
Ramp up your prosciutto and fruit appetizer by placing tropical fruit such as mango, pineapple or papaya (grilled or raw) onto pieces of toasted crostini. Add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a crumble of goat cheese or a piece of shaved parmesan cheese. Top it with a thin layer of prosciutto, and garnish each appetizer with a piece of uncooked, peeled and deveined shrimp.