Prosciutto Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese

parma date tastefood

Are you having a last minute holiday panic attack? You have the turkey brined, the potatoes smashed, the cranberries sauced, and 4 sorts of vegetables cleaned. But…what if you don’t have enough? (Of course you do). If you are like me, the  last hours of party prep often include last minute additions to the menu – just in case someone, heaven forbid, should waddle, I mean walk, away from the table still hungry.

Such was the inspiration for these stuffed dates. I added them to my holiday menu in a sudden moment of panic (maybe 3 appetizers were not enough!) I had all the ingredients on hand: goat cheese for the cheeseboard, dates to accompany the cheese, rosemary in the garden, and Proscitto, a permanent staple in my refrigerator. Prosciutto is easy to store and ready to pull out for charcuterie boards, draping over pizza, and layering into salads. I love it as is or baked in the oven where it crisps, waiting to be snapped into shards and sprinkled over pasta, soups and salads. For these appetizers, the prosciutto wrapped up the dates, sealing in the filling and creating tidy flavor-packed nuggets – sweet, salty and creamy at once. They were easily assembled one day in advance, simply needing a quick bake to crisp the ham and amplify its saltiness, providing a perfect foil to the sugary dates and mild goat cheese.

Parma Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese

Makes 12 to 16, depending on the size of the dates

5 ounces mild soft goat cheese
1 teaspoon finely minced rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 to 16 medjool dates
8 slices Parma ham, halved lengthwise

Preheat oven to 375°F (190C). Combine the goat cheese, rosemary, orange zest, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Mix with a fork to soften and combine.
Make a small incision in the dates lengthwise and remove the pits. Using a teaspoon or your fingers, fill the cavities of the dates with the goat cheese. Wrap each date with a strip of Parma ham. Place seam-side down on a baking sheet. Bake until the ham is slightly golden, about 15 minutes, turning once. Transfer to a serving plate and cool slightly. Garnish with rosemary sprigs. Serve warm.

Prosciutto Rolls with Arugula, Fennel and Mint

Prosciutto Rolls with Arugula, Fennel and Mint

This is my second recipe for Legends from Europe, using Prosciutto di San Daniele. These appetizer rolls are inspired by Vietnamese rice paper spring rolls, with a decided Italian twist. Prosciutto replaces the rice paper as the wrap, adding a salty savory component to the crunchy fresh vegetables and piquant Parmigano filling. No dip required: instead, olive oil, lemon and mint add flavor, aroma and a touch of moistness. You might want to double the batch, because these tend to get gobbled up before you can say Prosciutto di San Daniele.

Prosciutto Rolls with Arugula, Fennel and Mint
Makes 12

6 slices Prosciutto di San Danielle, halved lengthwise
Extra-virgin olive oil
Finely grated lemon zest
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups loosely packed baby arugula leaves
1 medium fennel bulb, fronds trimmed, halved lengthwise, each half thinly sliced lengthwise
4 ounces Parmigiano cheese, shaved
1/2 cup mint leaves, torn in half if large

Place a slice of prosciutto on a work surface, short end closest to you. Lightly brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of lemon zest and a little freshly ground black pepper. Arrange 6 to 8 arugula leaves at the base. Place a few slices of fennel and Parmigiano shavings over the arugula. Top with a few pieces of mint. Roll up from the base, tucking the prosciutto tightly around the vegetables. Continue to roll, placing 1 or 2 additional arugula leaves in the fold as you roll up. Place seam side down on a platter. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Cooking for your Health: Healthy Entertaining with Fresh Spring Rolls

Cooking for your Health: Healthy Entertaining with Fresh Spring Rolls

In this month’s installment of Cooking for your Health, we’re talking parties. More specifically, we’re talking healthy party food. I can’t think of a better way to have a good time than to have a group of friends over and to feed them. Sometimes this means a sit-down dinner with many courses, other times it’s a bunch of appetizers to call a meal. Either way, finger food is always involved and ideally it will be light, flavorful and nutritious, while being festive enough to be invited to a party. One of my favorite hors d’oeurvres is fresh spring rolls, which you might call a salad roll. They are bright, colorful, bursting with fresh veggies and herbs, and served with a spicy peanut dipping sauce with a kick of heat. They are a perfect way to begin a meal: Not only are they delicious, they are healthy, low in calories and won’t leave you with a stuffed feeling – even if you find yourself standing over the tray gobbling them up because they are so darn good.

Fresh Spring Rolls

For a vegetarian option, omit the shrimp. Feel free to mix and match your vegetables to taste and heat preference. Choose between sweet peppers, spicy chiles, jicama, daikon, cucumber, chinese cabbage, carrots, green onions. Remember that the key to a good roll is to have a balance of sweet, savory, heat and salt in the ingredients and to combine a variety of textures for a satisfying bite.  Be sure to prepare all the ingredients in advance, so that when you are ready to assemble the rolls, everything is in place.

Makes 8 rolls.

For the spring rolls:
8 (eight-inch/22 cm.) spring roll wrappers (galettes de riz)
8 large green lettuce leaves, any tough ribs removed, torn in half
4 scallions or spring onions, ends trimmed, halved, cut length-wise in julienne strips
2 large carrots, peeled, cut in matchsticks
1 large red bell pepper or 4 red jalapeno chile peppers, stemmed, seeded, cut in matchsticks
1 english cucumber, seeded, cut in matchsticks
1 large bunch coriander leaves and tender stems
1 large bunch mint leaves
16 medium cooked shrimp, peeled, halved lengthwise (optional)

For the Peanut Lime Sauce:
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon Sriracha or hot sauce
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro

Make Spring Rolls:
Pour warm water into a wide bowl. Immerse one rice paper round in water to just soften, about 5 seconds.  Remove and spread on a plastic cutting board.  Let stand for 30 seconds to absorb water. Arrange 2 lettuce leaf halves over the bottom half of the rice paper round.  Top lettuce with a line of green onion, carrot, pepper, cucumber, coriander and mint. Fold bottom of rice paper over filling and tuck around the filling to compact it. Arrange 4 shrimp halves horizontally over the crease and continue rolling. Transfer roll, seam-side down to a plate and cover with damp towel.  Repeat with remaining rolls.  (Adjust ingredient amounts to taste and to ensure the roll is plump and full).
Spring rolls may be made up to 4 hours in advance.  Cover with damp paper towels and plastic wrap and refrigerate. To serve, cut cross-wise in quarters, with one shrimp per segment, or in half.  Serve with Peanut Lime Sauce for dipping.

Make Peanut Lime Sauce:

Whisk  all ingredients except the cilantro together in a small bowl. Taste for seasoning. (Add 1 more tablespoon water if desired). Refrigerate covered until use. Before serving add cilantro.

If you like this, you might enjoy more Cooking for your Health recipes:
Homemade Granola Bars
Salmon Wrapped in Kale with Harissa
Greek Couscous Salad

Prosciutto, Fig, Arugula and Goat Cheese Roll-ups with Honey

Prosciutto Fig

It’s November and there are baskets of figs for sale in our market.  As a transplant from northern Europe, I find this positively decadent.  I was shopping yesterday for an autumn dinner, thinking of apples, braising meat, a turnip or two. I rounded the corner in the produce department, and there they were:  baskets and baskets of plump purpley-green tinged figs  And they didn’t even look sad or weary from lengthy storage or intercontinental jet travel.  These were the real ripe deal – all perky, fresh and plump.  So, of course, I had to have them.

FIgs and Prosciutto
And this is what I made with what I had at home in my refrigerator:

Prosciutto, Fig, Arugula and Goat Cheese Roll-ups with Honey
Makes 16

8 slices prosciutto, cut in half horizontally
8 small figs, halved or 4 large figs, quartered
2 cups arugula leaves, washed and dried
1/3 cup soft mild goat cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Runny honey

Lay prosciutto slice on work surface.  Arrange 1-2 fresh arugula leaves at one end.  Place fig on top of arugula.  Spoon one teaspoon goat cheese over fig and arugula.  Sprinkle with a pinch of pepper.  Roll up prosciutto from end with fig.  Arrange on serving plate.  Repeat with remaining ingredients. (Roll-ups can be prepared 3 hours ahead of serving.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Allow to come to room temperature before serving.)  Lightly drizzle honey over roll-ups before serving.