As popular as it is, the classic combination of melon and Parma ham doesn't do so well as part of a cocktail spread. Depending on room temperature, the prosciutto can dry out or become limp and flabby. In Jason Denton and Kathryn Kellinger's Simple Italian Snacks, the prosciutto is crisped in the oven before being crumbled over cool chunks of melon. Drizzled with chili-infused olive oil, a platter of this will stay vibrant for hours—provided it isn't gobbled up immediately.
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- 3 fresh red chiles (serrano, baby red pepper, Jingle Bell)
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 slices prosciutto di Parma
- 1 cantaloupe, seeded, cut into 1-inch cubes
- Fresh baby basil leaves, for garnish
Rinse and dry the chiles, and then score each pepper 3 times with a paring knife. Place them in a glass jar, fill the jar with olive oil, and set the jar in direct sunlight for a few hours. (Or if you want to use the oil immediately, warm it over a medium-low flame for 10 minutes.) The spiced olive oil can be stored, covered, in a cool dark place for up to 1 week.
Preheat the oven to 300°F.
Arrange the prosciutto slices in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake in the oven until the prosciutto has darkened in color and smells like bacon, 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.
When the prosciutto is cool enough to handle, crumble it into bits.
Drizzle 1/4 cup of the spiced olive oil over the melon cubes in a bowl, and toss to coat. (You could chill the melon at this point.) To serve, divide the melon among four plates. Sprinkle each portion with an equal amount of the crumbled prosciutto, and garnish with 2 or 3 fresh basil leaves.