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Lost Italian: Try grilled watermelon for a refreshing take on a summer side

Grilled watermelon topped with prosciutto, gorgonzola crumbles and home-grown basil drizzled with a balsamic reduction. Dave Wallis / The Forum1 / 2
Slices of watermelon heated on a grill. Dave Wallis / The Forum2 / 2

Fresh fruit is a must this time of year, and watermelon is one of our go-to summer fruits whenever we need to cool down. Watermelon is considered a super-food in the world of nutrition, and this luscious fruit is packed with vital nutrients that are naturally helpful this time of year.

Watermelons are about 92 percent water, making it a great, natural way to cool down and stay hydrated. But more than just being a liquid refresher, watermelon is also rich in vitamins A, B6 and C, and a great source for other health-boosting properties like lycopene (for cardiovascular health), antioxidants (to fight free radicals and keep our bloodstream clean) and amino acids (which make up a large proportion of our cells, muscles and tissues).

It is rare to find a food this nutritious that is also equally delicious, but watermelon hits the high mark on both fronts. It has become a summertime staple in our home, and, while it's great on its own as a snack, we are always looking for new ways to serve it with a meal. This week's new recipe features Grilled Watermelon Wedges topped with Gorgonzola Cheese and Prosciutto, garnished with fresh basil and a balsamic reduction.

Grilling the watermelon alters its original state and caramelizes the fruit, bringing out its natural sugars while also adding a punch of smoky flavor. Before grilling, we cut the watermelon into wedges, remove the rinds and brush each side with olive oil to prevent the fruit from sticking to the grill. For seasoning, we simply sprinkle a pinch of kosher salt and pepper over one side of each watermelon wedge before grilling.

Sharp, tangy cheeses that crumble easily, like feta or blue cheese, pair wonderfully with the sweetness of watermelon. We've chosen Italian gorgonzola blue cheese for this recipe, as it is more mellow and creamy than other blue cheeses and will partner nicely with the fresh prosciutto.

Prosciutto is an Italian dry-cured ham made from the hind leg or thigh of the pig. Like ham, prosciutto boasts a lovely blend of salty and sweet flavor, and it is traditionally served sliced paper thin, which further enhances its silky texture. Prosciutto has a delicate balance between flavor and texture, making it the perfect complement to the sweet watermelon and creamy gorgonzola.

A bit of fresh basil is used to bring more flavor and color to each watermelon wedge, and a drizzle of balsamic reduction adds a zesty zing that takes the entire dish to the next level. This dish is a perfect summer appetizer or side dish, especially with grilled beef or bison, and you could also dice the grilled watermelon into smaller pieces and toss it with the other ingredients to serve as a salad.

However you serve it, Grilled Watermelon with Gorgonzola and Prosciutto is sure to be a hit with your friends and family, who will never guess that it's just as nutritious as it is delicious. That's amore!

Grilled Watermelon with Gorgonzola and Prosciutto

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

3 watermelon rounds, quartered into wedges, rinds removed

Olive oil, for brushing melon

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

4 ounces prosciutto, cut lengthwise into ½-inch strips

4 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Fresh basil leaves

Balsamic reduction

Directions:

Preheat grill to high heat.

Brush both sides of each watermelon wedge with oil, and then sprinkle one side with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Grill watermelon on each side over direct, high heat,until grill marks appear, about 2 minutes per side.

Transfer watermelon to a serving plate; top each wedge with gorgonzola cheese and a strip of prosciutto, then garnish with fresh basil and drizzle with balsamic reduction. Serve immediately.

Excellent as a side dish with grilled beef or bison, or cut grilled watermelon into smaller pieces and toss with other ingredients to serve as a salad.

Balsamic Reduction

Makes: about 3/4 cup

Ingredients:

2 cups regular balsamic vinegar (not the high-end, aged variety)

Directions:

Place the vinegar in a small sauce pot or sauté pan and cook over high heat until it reaches a boil. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer, and cook until the vinegar has been reduced by at least half and a thick, syrupy consistency is achieved, approximately +/- 20 minutes.

To Store: Refrigerate for up to one month. For best results, use a squeeze bottle to create dramatic drizzles when serving.

"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 12-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello//thelostitalian.areavoices.com.

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