Cantaloupe Salad with Prosciutto, Burrata & Ice Wine Dressing  Recipe
Cantaloupe Salad with Prosciutto, Burrata & Ice Wine Dressing

By Wolfgang Puck

Thanks to modern airfreight, you can find melons in stores year round. But to appreciate the richly perfumed, honey-sweet, slightly spicy and nutty flavor of a great cantaloupe, you really should try to eat one that's locally grown and at its summertime peak. Which means that now is the time to head for your farmers' market, or a supermarket with a great produce section, to buy that melon.

I think many Americans take cantaloupe for granted. They just cut it into halves or wedges, seed it, and plop it onto a plate to start breakfast. Maybe, someone might toss a few fresh berries into the cavity where the seeds were, or add cottage cheese, yogurt, or sorbet for a classic low-calorie lunch.

The Italians have always seemed to have a better understanding of cantaloupe's potential. Anyone who's been to a trattoria probably knows how delicious ripe melon is when paired with thinly sliced prosciutto, the dry-cured raw ham of the Parma region, to make a classic antipasto. The melon of choice might be cantaloupe, or honeydew, Crenshaw, Charentais, or the Cavaillon melons I used to love as a young chef in the south of France. Mediterranean cooks understand how well sweet, musky melons go with rich meats. In my mind, I can still taste a wonderful pairing I once ate of roast duck and Cavaillon melon.

So I love to serve cantaloupe as a Mediterranean-style appetizer during the warm summer months. Using the popular antipasto as my starting point, I'll pair the melon with prosciutto, which you can find in easily most Italian delis as well as in many well-stocked supermarkets, along with the cream-filled balls of fresh mozzarella cheese called burrata.

To highlight the melon, I also like to add some of my own personal touches. I coat the fruit with a dressing featuring Eiswein, or ice wine, the Austrian or German dessert wine that gets its name from the fact that the ultra-ripe grapes from which it is made are left on the vine past the usual harvest time so that early frosts freeze them, concentrating their sugars. You can substitute any other domestic or important late-harvest dessert wine. Whichever kind you use, you'll have the bonus of being able to sip a glass along with the melon or after your meal.

Now, all that's left for you to do is choose your melon. Look for ones that feel heavy for their size, give slightly when pressed at both ends, and smell as sweet as you want them to taste. You can keep them refrigerated for up to 5 days, awaiting the moment when you transform them into an appetizer that is truly worthy of their wonderful flavor.

Cantaloupe Salad with Prosciutto, Burrata and Ice Wine Dressing Recipe

Serves 4

Recipe Ingredients

1 ripe cantaloupe

2 tablespoons ice wine (Eiswein) or other sweet white dessert wine

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon Champagne vinegar

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, preferably aged

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 pound burrata or fresh mozzarella cheese, at room temperature, cut into 4 slices

4 thin slices prosciutto

2 cups loosely packed baby arugula leaves, about 1-1/2 ounces

Recipe Preparation

With a sharp knife, cut the cantaloupe in half. With a metal tablespoon, scoop out the seeds and strings from the center of each melon half. Then, cut each half into thin wedges about 1/4 inch thick. With a paring knife, neatly cut the rind and any hard, pale or green flesh from each slice, leaving just the ripe orange-colored fruit. Arrange the cantaloupe slices in a large, shallow, nonreactive dish or pan.

In a small mixing bowl, stir together the ice wine, olive oil, Champagne vinegar, and balsamic vinegar. Season this dressing to taste with salt and pepper.

Drizzle 1-1/2 tablespoons of the ice wine dressing over the cantaloupe slices and turn them to coat them evenly. Arrange the slices attractively on individual serving plates; or cover the dish with plastic wrap and leave them to marinate in the refrigerator for no more than an hour before arranging them on the plates.

Set a slice of burrata on top of the melon slices on each plate. Drape a slice of prosciutto over the cheese. Put the arugula leaves in the shallow dish in which you had dressed the cantaloupe slices and add the remaining ice wine dressing. Toss until the arugula leaves are evenly coated. Arrange the arugula attractively on each plate. Serve immediately.

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Recipes: "Cantaloupe Salad with Prosciutto, Burrata & Ice Wine Dressing "

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