Is it weird that the thing I get most excited for about fall is the return of comfort food?! Forget the pumpkin spiced lattes, cable knit sweaters, leaves changing colours and all that other autumnal stuff! I just care about having the kind of food that feels like a hug, about the prospects of entertaining (and being entertained) for Thanksgiving, and about cozying up under a blanket with a bowl of warm soup!
During the cooler months as we hibernate, I also find myself back in the kitchen more often. Are you the same way? Since I’m always looking for recipe ideas, I thought I’d share 3 comforting appetizers for fall using Grana Padano and Prosciutto that I simply LOVE, and that I’m sure you will love too!
- a classic leek & potato soup with cheese tuiles for garnish
- fig & prosciutto crostini, and
- prosciutto e melone (prosciutto & melon) presented in a unique way,
Italy is home to some of the world’s best cured meats and cheeses, and has a long history of emphasizing quality, authenticity, and tradition in the production of its food. I think it’s equally important to buy, eat, and serve high-quality ingredients at home.
Leek & Potato Soup with Grana Padano Cheese Tuiles
Have you ever garnished your soup with a cheese tuile? If not, this will instantly bring your presentation game to the next level, while also adding texture and flavour to your soup! I garnished my leek & potato soup with a cheese tuile made from Grana Padano PDO, which is actually my favourite hard cheese (and happens to be Italy’s most popular hard grating cheese). Grana Padano is a partially skimmed raw cow’s milk cheese that has a salty, nutty flavour!
Side note: if you weren’t aware, the “PDO” (Protected Designation of Origin) identifier means that a particular product originated in a specific place, region or country, and that its quality or characteristics are due to the geographical environment of that place. It’s essentially a stamp of quality and authenticity. Like other PDO-certified products, Grana Padano is made under strict supervision, using the same traditional methods as those used by the monks who created it over 1,000 years ago!
To Make this Dish, You Will Need:
- Grana Padano PDO
- 4 leeks
- 4-5 yellow potatoes (I recommend Yukon Gold)
- ½ cup of butter
- 1 cup heavy cream (substitute with half and half, for a lighter option)
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 2-3 bay leaves
- Fresh thyme
- Fresh chives
- Salt & black pepper
To Make the Cheese Tuiles:
- Preheat oven to 350 °F.
- Finely grate Grana Padano PDO cheese, making about 1 cup or more, if desired.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
- Using a ring mold add a layer of Grana Padano PDO (about ¼” to a ½” thick). Press down firmly, ensuring cheese is compressed. Carefully remove ring mold and repeat until your baking tray is full. You’ll want to leave about 3 inches between each.
- Add baking tray to the oven and let bake for 5-10 minutes. Check often to ensure tuiles don’t burn. Remove from oven when golden brown.
- Let cool for a few minutes, carefully remove tuiles from baking tray, and then serve.
To Make the Soup:
- Cut the root ends and thick green parts of the leeks. Slice in half lengthwise, and then chop coarsely. Place in a colander and wash thoroughly. I recommend chopping the leeks before washing because there is a lot of dirt hidden between the leaves. Ensure to wash your cutting board after chopping as well.
- Peel potatoes, chop into small, even-sized cubes, and soak in cold water for a few minutes to remove some of the starch.
- Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add leeks and cook until translucent (about 15 minutes), stirring frequently. Adjust the heat so as not to burn.
- Add the potatoes, cover, and cook for about 5 minutes.
- Add chicken broth, bay leaves, thyme, salt and black pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and let simmer for about 10 minutes (or until the potatoes are cooked all the way through).
- Remove bay leaves and sprigs of thyme from the pot.
- Using an immersion blender, blend everything together.
- Add cream and continue to blend until smooth.
- When you’re ready to serve, you can add a dollop of crème fraiche, some finely chopped chives and a cheese tuile (I like to break the tuiles like brittle for a more rustic presentation).
Prosciutto & Fig Crostini
Prosciutto is an ingredient I use every time I entertain – no charcuterie board is complete without it! And when it comes to buying prosciutto, I don’t mess around! Most times, the stuff in the packages at the grocery store is not the real thing. So instead, I always go to the deli section and ask for sliced prosciutto – either Prosciutto di San Daniele PDO or Prosciutto di Parma PDO. Remember to look/ask for the PDO designation, which means these products are 100% natural, air-cured prosciutto from Italty! Both are made using 2 simple ingredients: salt & pork. For these crostini, I used Prosciutto di San Daniele, which is produced in the Friuli region of North Eastern Italy and is cured for at least 13 months.
You Will Need:
- Prosciutto di San Daniele PDO
- Figs (sliced)
- Baguette bread
- Baby kale
- Crème fraiche (you could also use ricotta cheese)
- Sea salt
- Cut baguette into thin slices (about ½” thick). Optional: brush with olive oil and toast crostini in the oven at 375 °F for 5-10 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Spread a thin layer of crème fraiche on crostini, top with Prosciutto di San Daniele, a small leaf of baby kale, and slice of fig.
- Sprinkle with a tiny bit of sea salt and drizzle with honey.
Prosciutto e Melone (Prosciutto & Melon)
I’ve had this classic dish many times, but it wasn’t until a recent trip to Niagara that I felt compelled to make it at home. On that trip, I thought the presentation was so delightful and delicate—the melon had been made into balls which were layered with prosciutto, a tiny dollop of crème fraiche, and a micro herb. This totally inspired me to create my own version!
Here, I used Prosciutto di Parma PDO (also known as Parma Ham). This prosciutto is only made in the Italian countryside, near Parma, from specially bred pigs raised and fed according to very strict guidelines. Prosciutto di Parma is aged for at least 400 days.
You Will Need:
- Prosciutto di Parma PDO
- 1 cantaloupe
- Crème fraiche
- Micro herbs (I used thyme)
- Cut cantaloupe in half. Using a melon baller, scoop out round balls of melon and set aside.
- Put melon balls on top of teaspoons (I think antique spoons add a beautiful touch!).
- Carefully place a small piece of prosciutto on top of the melon ball, followed by a small dollop of crème fraiche, and 1-3 thyme leaves.
- Arrange spoons on a platter and serve!
Well there you have it – 3 comforting appetizers using Grana Padano and Prosciutto that are perfect for fall! Do you like Grana Padano and Prosciutto? If so, what are some of your favourite ways to enjoy them?