Thursday, June 3, 2010

Papaya, Prosciutto & Perfection

Tonight's recipe marked a few firsts for me. Tonight was the first time I've ever had papaya (before that, I probably could not have even picked out a papaya at a grocery store. - Funny side story, while shopping at a local grocery store, we told one of the employees that we were looking for papaya. She paused, and then blurted "Is that a fruit?" apparently it's not all that well known in Iowa.) Yes, papaya is a fruit, a very tasty one at that. For those wondering, this:

Is a papaya. They start of green, and grow more yellow as they ripen (not unlike a banana). They are typically tucked underneath the kiwis, bananas and oranges in your supermarket's fruit section. (They're not cheap either). And, as I noted - they are delicious.

Another first for me this evening was prosciutto. Prosciutto is a dry-cured ham that is very thinly sliced. Prosciutto originates from Italy (Fun fact: Prosciutto is Italian for ham) and most of the prosciutto you will find in your supermarket has been imported. Prosciutto is typically served uncooked, and (much like the papaya) is very good...and not at all cheap.

What else do these two things have in common? Well, tonight Maggie used both of them to make an outstanding dish.

The Recipe: Ziti with Asparagus, Smoked Mozzarella and Prosciutto
Original Recipe Found In: Everyday Italian: 125 Simple and Delicious Recipes

What You'll Need:

8 Oz. Ziti Pasta  (Tubular pasta)
1 Lb. Asparagus
3 Oz. Smoked Mozzarella Cheese
3 Oz. Prosciutto
3 Tbs. Basil
2 Cloves of Garlic

The Recipe: Homemade Fruit Salad
Original Recipe Found In:  Maggie's head

What You'll Need:

7 Oz Capped Strawberries
7 Oz Chopped Pineapple
1 Papaya
1 Tb Lemon Juice

Welcome one and all to my evening to cook.  As Tyler mentioned, he had never had papaya or prosciutto and neither have I.  I've had papaya flavored items before and I wanted to try out the actual fruit.  And Giada De Laurentiis (One of my favorite chefs), ALWAYS uses prosciutto in her recipes.  So why not give it a try?I decided on one of her many recipes featuring the Italian meat, and then made up a fruit salad combination to try papaya in. 

These recipes were very simple - after last week's complicated, multipart recipe of doom...I definitely needed it.  I started by bringing a medium pot of water to boil.  During this time, I diced the strawberries and pineapple into smaller, bite size pieces and put those in a serving bowl.  I also "peeled" the skin of the papaya, meaning cutting the skin off of it, cut the papaya in half and scooped out (with a spoon) the slimy insides and black seeds.  After cutting the papaya into bite size pieces, I drizzled the salad with lemon juice, to prevent browning.  I mixed all together and put it in the fridge until it was time to serve.

By this time, the water should be boiling.  I poured my box of ziti in the water.  The box was about 16 ounces, so I used half of box, which, coincidentally, was 8 ounces and a very wise decision (Since, as Tyler has pointed out before, pasta seems to multiply like rabbits in the pot. I ended up with enough just using 8 oz. I shudder to think what would have happened had I used all 16 oz.)  While the pasta cooked for 10 minutes, I minced my two cloves of garlic.  I didn't use the vegetable chopper this evening (Tyler's note: And why not? The veggie chopper is a miracle worker), instead I used a very large and very sharp knife.  Thankfully, I didn't cut myself, but I got the garlic into itty-bitty pieces.  Also, while the pasta cooked, I diced my cheese into small pieces and began pulling apart the prosciutto.  The prosciutto is very, very thin as previously mentioned, so it was easy to make into edible portions.  Here is where you will want to add the asparagus to the boiling pasta. We chose to omit the asparagus - as neither Tyler nor I are big fans. If you do enjoy the little green veggie, add it to the pot now. 

After the pasta was done cooking, I drained the it.  While all the water drained from the little tubes of joy, I warmed up another pan and drizzled about 2 or so "lugs"(when you hear the container make the 'lug' sound twice) of olive oil into the pan when it was starting to heat up.  Once the pan was nice and toasty, I put the minced garlic in the pan to infuse the garlic and oil.  With the pasta drained, I transferred it to the garlic/oil pan.  I coated the noodles in the olive oil, then I put the cheese and the prosciutto into the pan, as well as sprinkled the basil into the pan.  I took a couple of minutes to warm the whole dish up, stirring every once in a while to make sure the cheese started to get melty and the prosciutto warmed up. One interesting point here, we used a large block of mozzarella cheese, (Pictured):

 and chopped it into smaller pieces. This was fine - until we started to melt it all down. The cheese began clumping together and ended up making one large cheese ball in the middle of the pan (one that was swallowing prosciutto and noodles with it). We're thinking that shredded mozzarella may be a better bet in the future).  Bring out the fruit salad, serve both on a plate, and enjoy!!

The Results:

As Maggie mentioned, tonight's dish was relatively simple to make. What she didn't mention, however, was just how delicious it all turned out. The mozzarella, prosciutto and ziti all blended together to make a very delectable dish. The three ingredients combine very nicely to make a clean flavor that doesn't overpower. You taste a slight hint of every flavor, but never feel like "Wow, you can really taste ingredient X". Tonight's recipe just goes to show, you can make an excellent dish with very little effort. Maggie only needed 30 minutes start to finish to make this delicious dish and (outside of the prosciutto - which is roughly $1 per slice and sold six slices at a time) the dish was relatively cheap to make as well.

The homemade fruit salad (Something Maggie made up on her own, flavor combinations and all) was a nice touch to the overall dish. As mentioned, papaya turned out to be very tasty - it reminds me of a weaker member of the melon family. It has the same texture and coloring as many common melons, but a sweeter - less dominating flavor. Papayas are certainly welcome in my fruit salad any day.

That's all we have for you tonight. Please be sure to submit your favorite homemade pancake recipes. You can leave those in the comments below this post. I'm looking at featuring those recipes in Saturday's blog. You can email your recipes to me as well. I think there is a link (somewhere on the blog) to contact me. Either way, send them in and we'll be sure to share them in a special Saturday feature!

I'm back in the kitchen tomorrow (and my recipe will also be using prosciutto). We should have the blog up a little earlier tomorrow night, but check back in around this time just to be safe. As always, thank you for spending a few moments reading our cooking experiences, and until tomorrow


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