When I was growing up we’d frequently spread newspaper over the picnic table and split open a summer-ripe watermelon. We all anticipated the knife tip piercing the surface, hoping for a good watermelon, one whose rich red color bled almost to the rind. Sometimes we’d get a stinker, and we’d make the best of it.
Other times we’d cut into a beauty—one that was as sweet and red at the surface as it was at the core. Someone would pass around forks and knives, and I’d eat right up to the white.
I preferred my melon unadorned, but Mom needed salt. Whether she was eating the sorriest or sweetest of melons, she ritually reached for the saltshaker and started sprinkling.
It’s forty-five years later and I’m staring at a small watermelon in my fridge. I cut the fruit into thick “plates,” set a skillet on the stove, and tiny dice prosciutto, which I fry up salty-crisp. I make a simple salad, heavy on the basil, and flavor it simply with crisp red onion, prosciutto renderings, and a squirt of lime.
I scatter the remaining prosciutto over the watermelon like big salt crystals and then mound on the salad. It’s time to eat.
It’s a good melon—cold, crisp, and sweet. I cut into Prosciutto-Basil Salad on Watermelon Plates and take a bite. I’m like Mom now. I like my melons salty too.
Prosciutto-Basil Salad on Watermelon Plates
12 ounces prosciutto, cut into small dice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups fresh basil leaves
4 cups mixed baby salad greens
1/4 medium red onion, sliced thin
Salt and ground black pepper
1/2 fresh lime
1 small watermelon, sliced into 6 round slabs
Fry prosciutto in the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until prosciutto darkens and crisps up, about 5 minutes. Drain prosciutto and set aside; reserve drippings.
Toss basil, salad, onion, reserved oil, half the prosciutto, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper; toss to coat. Squeeze in a couple of teaspoons of lime juice to taste; toss to coat again. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt, pepper, and lime juice as needed.
Sprinkle remaining prosciutto over each watermelon slab, top with a portion of the salad, and serve immediately.