Thursday, March 11, 2010

mnnn prosciutto...

Prosciutto, prosciutto, prosciutto... oh how I love you so. So three days ago, I took a quick trip to my neighborhood market to buy some for a recipe for the Flexitarian Cookbook. But I looked at the price board at the farmer's market and saw $14.99! Ack! I reeled a little and inspected it more closely. It was $14.99 for a pound of fine imported prosciutto from Italy, thinly sliced. I looked down the board and saw domestic prosciutto for $9.99. A little better but still.... then I saw it.

Prosciutto shanks on sale.

$4.59 for the ones imported from Italy and $3.59 for the domestic ones. I eyed them dubiously. Less than 1/2 the price for the same meat?? I thought there must be something different about them. The preparation? The cut? I asked the butcher.

"The difference?" he asked confusedly, following my eyes to the basket of fat hunks of meat, "Ah the difference! You see the difference between the ones imported from Italy and the Domestic ones are first the price... though this one is domestic, it's marked wrong. But we also have this! The Spanish prosciutto. You can tell it by how the rivers of fat run along it. Domestic prosciutto has less marbling. Much like steak..."

Though I'm not so sure about how accurate that last part is, because at that point, all I was thinking was oh dear... he misunderstood me. Quite badly too. So after his little speech, I stuttered my thanks and quickly asked for the Italian prosciutto shank. Attempting to pay for it, I reached for my wallet only to be told with a laugh that the butcher can't take my money. Of course. I sputtered an awkward chuckle of my own and tottered away with my new meaty companion.

That was Monday and today, I decided to see for myself – what exactly is prosciutto? I knew it was some sort of cured meat, delicious in the sandwiches I've had from upscale delis, and that one time, it was a special in my college deli (from when they required me to be on the meal plan). I wondered, does it even need to be refrigerated? Is it safe to digest? How long can I keep it?

I discovered that the prosciutto I know is prosciutto crudo or Italian for dry-cured ham served uncooked. The thin-sliced type and the giant chunk I bought are no different in preparation except that one was sliced and the other wasn't (which is worth the price if you like the thin slicing, the shank was incredibly hard to even slice at all). Both are as perfectly fine to digest as a slice of salami or smoked salmon. And refrigerating it would help prevent the salt crystals from drying out. While the prosciutto itself would lasts quite a while, the shanks' flavor deteriorates after about 60 days while the taste of sliced prosciutto deteriorates only after a few day.

So hungry and tired from a full day of work (yes I somehow managed to have class even during Spring Break), I set to make something from my fridge of food. And armed with my new knowledge, I present to you Prosciutto Salad.

Prosciutto salad

1 cup of spinach leaves torn
2 small baby bella mushrooms sliced
1/2 cup of prosciutto torn
1/3 cup of Tuscan olivita mozerella

Balsamic dressing

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon chives
a liberal grind of parsley, sea-salted, garlicky peppercorns

Mix the oil and vinegar together and then add in all the other herbs and spices. The dressing is better after sitting in the fridge for at least an hour. Mix together spinach, mushrooms, and prosciutto. Top with mozzarella chunks and then drizzle on the dressing.

Devour immediately :)

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