Being married to a New York Italian, I have slowly become familiar with the unique vocabulary this special culture uses to describe its food. When we first met, I had no idea that when Anthony’s mom said “mutzadel,” she was referring to what I would call “mozzarella,” or that “gabagool” meant “capicola.” (Not that I knew what capicola was, anyway. It wasn’t exactly a staple in my German-Swiss upbringing.) For years I thought my husband’s family simply had their own strange ways of pronouncing these Italian foods, but apparently, it transcends just his family. I eventually found out that ALL New York Italians use these words. This satirical video of a Brooklyn spelling bee pretty well sums it up:
I can only assume it’s one of those linguistic phenomena where words from a mother language get altered in trickling down the generations and become almost unrecognizable, like a game of Telephone.
Now that we’ve been married almost 12 years and I’ve figured out the lingo, every time I make the appetizer pictured here, I can’t help but think of it as calling for “brahjzoot,” the New York Italian pronunciation of “prosciutto.” This must be some kind of rite of passage–if we ever go to Brooklyn, I’ll fit right in! (Ha.)
Even if it’s pretty unlikely I’ll ever pass for a New York Italian, at least I have this delightful recipe for a variation on a classic Italian appetizer: prosciutto-wrapped melon. I especially love this version for its tangy vinaigrette that combines fresh mint and golden balsamic vinegar. (Another food I never knew about until recently! The “golden” aspect of this balsamic allows the melon to keep its own attractive color.) With warmer weather upon us, this 5-ingredient, light and refreshing starter would work well for an outdoor gathering, paired with a Chardonnay….
…and perhaps (why not?) some “mutzadel” to go with it.
Prosciutto-Wrapped Melon with Mint Vinaigrette
(Adapted from Fine Cooking)
1 ripe cantaloupe
2 Tbsp. thinly-sliced fresh mint leaves
1/4 c. Tbsp. golden balsamic vinegar, depending on sweetness of melon (the sweeter the melon, the more vinegar you can use)
1/2 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
6 oz. thinly-sliced prosciutto
- Slice the cantaloupe into chunks or thin wedges, removing the rind.
- In a medium bowl, stir together golden balsamic vinegar, mint leaves, and black pepper. Toss cantaloupe slices in this mixture until coated.
- Slice or tear the prosciutto into 1 to 2-inch wide strips and wrap around each melon slice. Place on a serving platter and serve immediately.
Serves about 6-8 as an appetizer.