Balancing meat and melon

If you live in a country shaped like a boot you’d say: prosciutto e melone.

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Read Time: 8 minutes

The origin of a pairing like prosciutto and cantaloupe is old. Like, older than your grandma, old. But before we get to this particular meat and melon sandwich, we must work through some interesting ancient medical concepts. According to quite a few sources (with little deeper documentation that I could find), the Etruscans attempted to eat meals that had a sort of balance between the individual components back in the 2nd century AD in ancient Italy because of medical theories at the time.

In the second century, a well-traveled Greek physician named Galen eventually settled in Rome and worked on a medical theory—built upon Hippocrates’ teachings—that the healthy human body was all about balance. Using this theory Galen began developing what would become Humorism or Galenic medicine and it would influence Western medicine for more than a thousand years.

This is some nerdy history stuff. Click links to skip:

Jump to sandwich production.

Jump to sandwich recipe.

Galen thought that different foods—as well as the seasons of the year—influenced the health and balance inside the human body. Galen associated the balance with four qualities: warm, cold, moist, or dry. The idea was that cold foods should be balanced with warm foods and moist foods balanced by dry foods. Some sources say that it was thought that cantaloupe was dangerous because of its cold and juicy nature and it needed to be balanced by another component.

Prosciutto is a salty, cured meat and cantaloupe is a moist, cold melon. These two ingredients perfectly match and end up fully balanced. It’s likely that Galen would have been a big fan of the combo. While Italians have likely been eating this combination for a lot longer than we are aware, it first showed up in an Italian cookbook in 1891.

Pope Paul II (not John Paul II) was supposedly obsessed with cantaloupes. This is likely not true or accurate but some stories claim that the Pope ate two whole cantaloupes back-to-back directly before his death in 1471. Can cantaloupes kill?

Fast forward to today, and I would say that the combo of prosciutto and cantaloupe is seen most often on charcuterie boards or as a passed appetizer at a cocktail party. This pairing is really fun to eat during warm months because it’s super refreshing, with balanced savory and sweet flavors.

What is this sandwich?

I’m sharing a prosciutto and cantaloupe sandwich. This is a sandwich with a big focus on sweet and savory flavors derived from pairing cured meat with fruit. Is it going to heal us of our ailments? I don’t know. But the sandwich also has arugula tossed with fig jam and a balsamic vinegar-based dressing which is a salad and everyone knows that salad is healthy. All of these ingredients are layered inside one of the easiest bread recipes I can share.

First, we need some bread and this is one you should all try.

Loaf pan focaccia

I shared this small focaccia-style bread recipe when I created recipes for an almost-personal Detroit-style pizza. If you’ve had both, you’ll recognize that focaccia and the bread/crust of Detroit-style pizza are very similar in texture and flavor. They’re both baked in a pan that is heavily greased or oiled. The oil in the pan under the focaccia sort of fries the bottom of the bread/crust and leaves the exterior crunchy and almost buttery from baking in the fat.

This recipe bakes in a 4 x 8-inch loaf pan that you might already have in your cabinet. The dough requires zero kneading and only one round of dough rise time to get to what I feel is almost the perfect thickness for a focaccia sandwich.

Three slices of ham, provolone, and spinach dressed with spicy Calabrian chili oil and vinegar. The ratio of ingredients to bread is spot on.

This is not one of those fancy focaccia that has huge air pockets throughout the bread. This is Business Focaccia™ which serves as a perfect base and hat for a sandwich. Oh and also, you can slice this bread into smaller pieces to accompany your next pasta dish.

A lazy no-knead quick-rise bread

I have tested this small pan focaccia quite a few times since originally sharing the recipe and recently decided to add a 20 percent increase in the weight of the dough. This made the bread the perfect height for me (around 1.5 inches) after an hour of rise time.

The ingredients need to be added to a bowl and then stirred until there are no dry flour spots in the bowl. It takes about 2 or 3 minutes at most to get to this point. The dough should be pretty sticky, so just use a spoon for all of this stirring.

Once the dough is fully combined, that’s it, you just need to move it and spread it out in the bottom of the loaf pan.

As usual, there will be a video reel released on my Instagram account a few minutes after this blog post goes live.
The dough requires no kneading, you just stir to combine it and then spread it into a baking pan.
This might seem short, but an inch and a half is perfect for two 3/4 inch slices of bread to balance with the sandwich fillings.
Seasonings on top could be pretty much anything—oregano, thyme, sage, sliced olives, red onion, or any spices you can imagine.
The almost-fried bottom of this bread is the best part.
For this particular sandwich, I seasoned with just salt and pepper because I didn’t want any additional flavors.
This loaf turns out to be the perfect thickness for a sandwich for me.

Here’s my loaf pan focaccia recipe that’s super easy. Teach your kids to make it and then you can sit on the couch while they slave over the dough for a whole 5 minutes.

2 hours and 30 minutes
Loaf pan focaccia sandwich bread

Here's a no-knead, easy-to-prepare mini focaccia that can be turned into two to three sandwiches. With no special equipment and a minimal amount of effort, you can easily have this bread on the table as a side for your next pasta or salad dinner.

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Prosciutto

The meat in this sandwich is prosciutto, a salty cured meat made from the back leg of a pig. This meat works really well because the saltiness balances really nicely with the sweetness of the cantaloupe and the other components of the sandwich. If you can’t find prosciutto, you could use ham or maybe bacon to accomplish some of the same goals. But prosciutto is the meat that will work best with cantaloupe.

Bought both of these prosciutto at the same store and I can’t tell what the difference is. They’re both 3 ounces and there is nothing about the difference on the Del Duca website either.
Don’t just lay the prosciutto on the bread flat, make sure to drape it and pile it up a little to make the sandwich experience better.

Cantaloupe slices

It took me about 15 or 20 years to be able to eat cantaloupe again after my very short stint picking melons one summer in my teenage years. One of my first jobs—before I could drive—took place during a very hot summer working in cantaloupe and watermelon fields. I and my other coworkers would walk down the field rows, grabbing and picking the cantaloupes that looked ripe, and then placing them on metal “wings” of a trailer being pulled behind a tractor that drove down the rows beside us.

Wow, this guy has a lot to say about cantaloupe.

Today is the day that this became one of those recipe blogs.

Occasionally you’d grab what appeared to be a ripe cantaloupe but actually, it was overripe, rotten, or squishy and your hands would go right into the flesh of the melon. No big deal, right? Just wash your hands and get back to work. Except there are no sinks in the field. So you’d end up working all day in 90+ degree heat with sweet and sticky hands that smelled very strongly of overripe cantaloupe. Even if you wore gloves, the smell just stuck around all day.

Luckily, I didn’t have those same problems with watermelon because that is still one of my favorite fruits. And I’m also lucky that 20+ years after that summer job I regained the ability to enjoy cantaloupe again.

Oh yeah, I think we were talking about a sandwich. Cantaloupe plays a big part in this one and it’s important that its sliced fairly thin so that it will be easy to bite through. I add a tiny sprinkle of salt on top of the cantaloupe because that’s how I typically eat melon, but it’s certainly not needed in this sandwich since the prosciutto is already pretty salty.

There’s a lot of salt in the prosciutto so you can probably skip salting the cantaloupe, but I gave it a little sprinkle of flaky salt anyway.
I also hit the top of the cantaloupe with balsamic glaze, which is a great ingredient to keep in the fridge.

Fig preserves

I make a lot of things from scratch on this blog, but I’m not going to make fig preserves. You can buy those.

The brand I use is Bonne Maman Fig Preserves and it’s fairly easy to find in my neck of the woods at major grocery stores. The link I just shared has a “find our products” button that might help if you’re having trouble finding it, but if you simply can’t find it, you can either leave it out of the recipe or replace it with something like raspberry jam or preserves. The flavor will be quite different, but the idea of adding sweet flavor to a sandwich with salty and vinegary twang is what we are going for here.

This is the brand of fig preserves that I usually buy. Spoiler, the sandwich also includes balsamic glaze.

Dressed arugula

This sandwich was begging for something green so I created a very tiny dressing recipe that works for a very small salad or a pile of arugula that can be used in 1 to 2 sandwiches. The dressing requires 3 ingredients (plus salt) and everything is less than a tablespoon so you should not have leftover dressing.

This is a balsamic and fig dressing and it works great with the rest of the components in this sandwich. The sweetness from the preserves and twang from the vinegar boost up the peppery arugula and become a great part of the overall experience.

Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and fig preserves are the ingredients in this simple dressing. Don’t forget the salt!

Don’t skip the glaze

I’ll be clear, this sandwich is good without balsamic glaze, but it’s even better with it. The glaze brings a concentrated punch of sweet and tangy flavor that balances the other components of the sandwich.

Making your own balsamic glaze usually only requires balsamic vinegar and maybe one or two other ingredients like brown sugar.

If you’re worried that this glaze is only going to be used on this one sandwich and then nothing else; don’t worry. We often drizzle balsamic glaze on any roasted vegetables like Brussels sprouts or asparagus. It would also be great drizzled on a grilled pork chop. There are lots of applications and balsamic glaze is a great addition to your pantry or fridge.

This is the brand of balsamic glaze that we currently have in the fridge but I’ve tried a bunch of them.

Build process

Once you have the bread made, this sandwich is really easy to put together. There is a dressing for the arugula but it’s just three ingredients and can be easily made without much measuring.

The build process for my sandwich goes like this:

  • a thin layer of fig jam on the bottom of the focaccia
  • a small pile of folded-over prosciutto (4 or 5 slices)
  • slices of cantaloupe, salted and drizzled with balsamic reduction
  • arugula tossed in a balsamic fig jam dressing
  • topped with the focaccia top

Now you know all of my ultra-secret plans and strategies for this particular sandwich so all that is left is for you to make it. Keep scrolling for more photos of the sandwich and the full recipe.

An animated gif of the prosciutto and cantaloupe sandwich build process.

The prosciutto and cantaloupe sandwich recipe

This is a really easy sandwich to put together that you can make on any bread that you’d like. But I really do suggest that you give this easy focaccia recipe a try if you’re interested in baking. The recipe makes enough for two to three sandwiches or if you just need bread to go alongside your next plate of pasta, you could cut the bread into longer “stick” pieces which you can use to scoop up some sauce.

If you think you’d enjoy a sandwich that’s built upon the balance of sweet and savory flavors, this is a good one to make and enjoy.

Once you have the bread made, this sandwich only takes about 10 minutes to make.
This sandwich makes for a pretty good cross-section.
The bread is easy to make and the sandwich components are dialed in on this one.
This quick focaccia has a large return on investment.
Cantaloupe and prosciutto are a fantastic pairing.
The balsamic glaze is optional but it has a large presence on top of the cantaloupe.
The focaccia brings crunch that balances with the tender cantaloupe and crispy, dressed arugula.
Prosciutto and cantaloupe sandwich on focaccia view printable page for this recipe

This sandwich walks the line, balancing salty and sweet flavors inside a buttery and crunchy focaccia-style bread. The prosciutto and cantaloupe work well with sweet and tangy balsamic and fig jam-dressed arugula.


Ingredients:

Loaf pan focaccia
  • 144 grams bread flour (1 1/4 cup - can use all-purpose flour)
  • 4 grams salt (1/2 teaspoon)
  • 4 grams instant yeast (a bit more than 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 7 grams olive oil (2 teaspoons)
  • 115 grams water (1/2 cup)
  • non-stick cooking spray
  • 8 grams olive oil (2 teaspoons - this goes in the loaf pan)
  • salt and black pepper (or other seasonings for the top)
Fig and balsamic dressing
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons fig preserves
  • small pinch of salt
Sandwich assembly
  • a handful of arugula
  • fig and balsamic dressing (from above)
  • 1 loaf pan focaccia cut into 2 equal sized pieces
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons fig preserves
  • 3 to 4 ounces prosciutto
  • 4 to 6 small slices of cantaloupe
  • balsamic glaze

Directions:

Loaf pan focaccia: add flour, salt, and yeast to a medium-sized bowl and stir all dry ingredients until thoroughly combined.

Measure and add 7 grams of olive oil (2 teaspoons) and water, and stir for 2 minutes to ensure that all dough components are combined and there are no dry flour spots. The dough will be very sticky and probably difficult to handle with your hands, so keep using the spoon.

Spray the inside of an 8x4-inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray and then add 2 teaspoons or 8 grams of olive oil to the pan and tilt the pan a few times to allow the olive oil to spread out some.

Add the sticky dough on top of the olive oil in the pan and moisten your fingertips with some of the olive oil to prevent sticking. Using your olive-oiled fingertips, press the dough to flatten it and try to get the dough to reach close to all four corners of the pan. Flipping the dough after you've flattened it will help to coat the dough thoroughly with olive oil and make it easier to handle with your fingers. 

Once the dough is flattened and stretching close to the corners of the pan, cover the pan and allow it to rise for 1.5 to 2 hours or until it is really puffy and at least doubled in size.

Near the end of the rise time, preheat your oven to 450 degrees F (230 C). 

Your dough should already be fairly dimpled from flattening it and stretching it out earlier, but after it has doubled, you can dimple the top lightly if you'd like. Try not to dimple all the way through the dough to the bottom because that will deflate the bread.

Add a drizzle of olive oil to the top and then sprinkle it with salt and pepper. This is the chance to add any other herbs and seasonings that you might desire.

Bake the focaccia for 18 to 23 minutes.  

Remove from the pan to a cooling rack to cool before slicing.  

Fig and balsamic dressing: combine all dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine.

Sandwich assembly: toss the arugula in the bowl with the fig and balsamic dressing. 

Slice the focaccia and spread fig preserves on the bottom slice of bread.

Top the preserves with piled-up prosciutto and then layers of cantaloupe. Lightly salt the cantaloupe if desired and then drizzle on balsamic glaze. 

Add dressed arugula to the top and then close the sandwich with the top slice of focaccia. Serve and enjoy. 

Check back next week

Next week we’ll be making some expensive sandwiches! It’s going to be another Patreon suggested sandwich and it’s also going to be a bunch of fun.


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