Prosciutto roll-ups are the perfect appetizer. Salty strips of prosciutto wrap around leafy arugula sprigs, crispy fennel spears and nutty Parmesan shavings, binding the vegetables together in an edible cocoon basted with lemon and garlic infused oil. This is the best kind of finger food – healthy, fresh and seasonal.
Feel free to fiddle with the ingredients and take advantage of the season’s produce. Be sure to include a leafy green, a crisp vegetable and cheese for a variety of textures. Other suggestions would include a combination of basil or mint leaves, blanched asparagus spears or crispy pear slices, and pecorino, gorgonzola or manchego cheese.
Prosciutto Roll-ups with Arugula, Fennel and Parmesan
Makes 24 roll-ups
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
12 slices of prosciutto, halved lengthwise
2 cups baby arugula leaves, washed
1 large fennel bulb, fronds removed, sliced in half lengthwise, each half thinly sliced, lengthwise
4 ounces Parmegiano-Reggiano cheese, thinly shaved
Freshly ground black pepper
Whisk oil, garlic, lemon juice and zest together in a small bowl.
Place one prosciutto slice on work surface, long side parallel to the edge. Place several arugula leaves at one end. Top with several fennel slices and a few shavings of cheese. Drizzle with a 1/2 teaspoon of the oil. Sprinkle with pepper. Starting at the filled end, roll up the prosciutto. Place seam-side down on a platter. Repeat with remaining slices. Brush the roll-ups with a little of the oil. (May be prepared up to 4 hours in advance. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature to serve.)
Here is another soup recipe that sings spring. Spring Chicken and Vegetable Soup is filled with seasonal vegetables including green garlic. Appearing in the markets right now, green garlic is the younger rendition of the ubiquitous papery garlic bulb. Like any youngster, this version is sassy, sharp and full of swagger. But with a little heat, all of that bravado fades away. The green garlic softens, mellows and loses its pungency, resulting in a smooth aromatic backdrop to this light and healthy soup.
Spring Chicken and Vegetable Soup
Serves 4 to 6
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped green garlic, white and pale green parts
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
2 large carrots, thinly sliced
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup orzo
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken meat (optional)
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add green garlic and 1 teaspoon salt. Sauté until garlic softens and its aroma loses its sharpness, 5 minutes. Add fennel and carrots and continue to sauté until the vegetables brighten in color and begin to soften, 2 minutes. Add stock, orzo and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer, partially covered until orzo is cooked through and vegetables are tender, 15 – 20 minutes. Taste for salt. Stir in chicken and parsley; continue to cook until the chicken is warmed through. Serve immediately in warm bowls.
This morning I brought home my usual overstuffed shopping basket from the farmer’s market. It tumbled over with relief when I placed it down on the kitchen counter, and a few eager ingredients escaped the crowd and rolled before me. These included some sweetly perfumed white nectarines, a floppy bunch of intoxicatingly aromatic mint, and a snow-white fennel bulb crowned with frizzy green fronds. As I reached for them I stopped and thought: What a wonderful combination of color, texture and fresh flavor. The leaves of mint were enormous, begging to be left intact. Obligingly, I gathered one and cupped the leaf realizing it would make a perfect vessel. I sliced the nectarine thinly and did likewise with the fennel, reserving its dill-like tips as garnish. I imagined the crunchy, juicy, fresh and bright textures and taste. Now to balance this combo, a little salt and a little bite were needed. I knew exactly what to dig for in my cheese drawer: a chunk of Pecorino Romano Pepato I had purchased the previous week at my favorite Italian specialty store. If you do not know this fantastic cheese it is a Pecorino Romano studded with whole black peppercorns. The combination of the salty sheep cheese and the sharp bite of black peppercorn is addictive. I shaved a few slivers off, collected any wayward black peppercorns and combined them with the other ingredients cupped in the mint leaf. To pull it together, I reached for a lemon on my window ledge and cut a wedge of it, squeezing the fresh citrus juice over the mint, followed by a light drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. And suddenly I had a perfect summertime amuse-bouche. If you prefer more substance to your bite, this would go nicely on top of crostini.