Here is good summer food. The dish delivers contrasts—hot and cold, crisp and soft, sweet and salty—and best of all, it can be eaten with the hands. On hot days, serve it on a cold plate, making sure the melon is very cold, and even include a chilled fork, if you like. Another presentation would be to cut thin slices of seedless watermelon and overlap them on a plate for watermelon "carpaccio." Then balance the batons against each other in the middle of the plate. This is a good place to use several drops of your precious aceto balsamico traditionale. Or you can serve this with the tomato vinegar, included in the book. You can also grill or roast the zucchini. Any kind of melon will work as long as it is ripe (but not overripe and mushy) and fragrant.
1 medium-sized ripe melon
3 zucchini, each about 8 inches long and of equal diameter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
24 very thin slices pancetta or prosciutto
1-1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or mint
Halve and seed the melon, then peel. Cut the melon on a mandoline with the julienne blade, or cut by hand into thin slices and then again into flat "noodles" about 1/4 inch wide. Arrange in a pile on a platter or divide among 4 plates and sprinkle with a little salt. Keep refrigerated until needed.
Trim the ends from the zucchini and cut into quarters lengthwise. Season with salt and pepper. Wrap each piece tightly in pancetta, using 2 pieces per quarter. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat until hot. Add the zucchini and sauté until the pancetta is crispy but the zucchini is still nearly raw, about 5 minutes.
Place 3 zucchini batons on top of each portion of melon, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, and dust with parsley. Serve immediately.
The Tra Vigne Cookbook
Seasons in the California Wine Country
By Michael Chiarello
Chronicle Books, November 1999
96 pages with color photographs throughout
Recipe reprinted by permission.
This page created April 2000
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