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Chilled melon soup with prosciutto and mint

MelonsoupWe had a dinner party last Thursday, and it’s taken me some time to pull together my notes and images to get the recipes up from it. But it was a fairly successful meal all around, and I wanted to document at least a couple of notable items.

For this event, I broke the cardinal rule of dinner parties: Every single dish I made I was making for the very first time. That said, I didn’t make anything all that complicated and so felt pretty confident that each dish would turn out at least well enough to serve to friends, if maybe not droolingly delicious. I am pretty sure I met at least that goal. Of course, it helps that I cheated on dessert and bought a bunch of pots de crème from Miette.

For the first course, I stole an idea from our recent exceptional meal at Acquerello: Chilled melon soup with prosciutto and mint. At Acquerello, they used galia melon, which was a brilliant green and extremely fragrant. I was unable to find galias, purtroppo, as they are my favorites, and had to resort to cantaloupe. But I think this would work well with any melon as long as it is very fresh, very ripe and very sweet and fragrant.

This is obviously a permutation on the classic Italian appetizer prosciutto e melone. But making it into a chilled soup lends a certain elegance, and the addition of mint adds a pleasant dimension of freshness and added complexity.

The recipe is simplicity itself, though it is slightly more than just pureeing melon. You have to bolster the melon with some supporting flavors lest it taste one-dimensional. A dash of sugar, a pinch of salt and some lime juice and Grand Marnier helped to build a more complex flavor and bouquet while still not getting in the way of the beautiful, ripe melon.

As per usual, the recipe follows after the jump, with the one caveat that measurements are extremely approximate. I did everything to taste, and so should you.

Chilled melon soup with prosciutto and mint
1 small, very ripe melon, preferably galia or cantaloupe, seeded, peeled and cubed
1 Tbsp sugar
1 pinch salt
1 Tbsp Grand Marnier
juice of 1/2 lime
4 slices good prosciutto (Parma or San Daniele), freshly sliced
several leaves fresh mint

In a food processor or blender, add all ingredients and pulse in 10-second intervals until very smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. If desired, run through a coarse sieve to eliminate any major chunks. The puree will be slightly granular in texture; if you want a smoother finish, run through a finer sieve, chinois or a food mill. Transfer to a large bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Just before serving, tear the sheets of prosciutto into bite-sized pieces by hand. Roll mint leaves into a cigar shape and slice crosswise very finely in a chiffonade; toss with fingers to separate.

Into chilled bowls, pour one cup of the puree. Lightly drop pieces of torn prosciutto around, and gently add a mound of chiffonaded mint in the center. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

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