It wasn’t love at first sight, not even second sight. My “date” was quite verbose, but I was seduced by his vulnerability, the ease with which he stripped his….heart bare (clothes stayed on). Once I fell into his grasp, I fell hard for him. My husband knew of this love affair, and was fine with it because the object of my affection is a book, The Goldfinch. I devoured it for hours at a time, good thing I don’t have kids, otherwise I would surely have Child Services knocking on my door. I was swept away by the raw beauty of Donna Tartt’s writing, and how the main character wooed me into his inner life. The story unwound itself page by page and wrapped itself around me in sensurround. The Goldfinch in the title of the book refers to an actual painting that became very dear to the main character, but please go read it for yourself if you haven’t already.
I wanted to make an edible Valentine to The Goldfinch, and thought something lemony would be fitting. I decided to create golden cupcakes that are tart and sweet, which is one of the book’s messages, that is – even though your life may be sour, sweetness can still be found. Because the book is so substantial in content and length I wanted my cupcakes to be dense and substantial, almost like a pound cake quality. For the love of The Goldfinch, below is my Valentine cupcake recipe.
My New Year’s resolution is to KISS a lot. I will KISS more at home, at work, anywhere that I can do it. That is, to “Keep It Simple Sweetheart”. This extends to the appetizer that I am blogging about today, because I often put pressure on myself to come up with dishes that are unique, tasty and good for you. And sometimes ‘simple’ is best. Many years ago, I had a tasty chicken dish that my friend’s mom made for me and it was made only with chicken wings and oyster sauce. The chicken wings were placed in front of a window all day to dry out (this was before food safety was an issue, and hey, none of us got sick eating those wings) and then lightly fried in a hot wok with the oyster sauce barely coating them. They were super crispy and flavourful; I remembered that it was hard to stop eating them. Not only did the taste blow me away, but the fact that it was made with only two ingredients stuck with me.
Today’s recipe is barely even a recipe. It has only two ingredients in homage to my friend’s mom. This classic Italian dish can be served as an appetizer or as a dessert. But in my home, this is the perfect light meal when it is served with a salad.
Italians are brilliant in so many ways – they gave us Leonardo Da Vinci, stunning architecture, and Ferrari sports cars. Then there is their contribution to the culinary world, but I must say that my favourite Italian import is prosciutto crudo, which is raw cured ham. Parma and San Daniele are the best and come from the same region in Italy. A popular way to serve prosciutto is with ripe cantaloupe. For those of you who are Italian or have travelled to Italy, you will be familiar with this dish, but you may not know that cantaloupe is a superfood! It offers a high amount of vitamin A (great for eye health), vitamin C, vitamin B’s and also many minerals including calcium, iron and magnesium. It also has the antioxidant, zea –xanthin, which protects the body from UV rays. Prosciutto would not really be a superfood as it is high in sodium and fat so I wouldn’t recommend eating it on a regular basis, but it does have iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and of course protein.
My husband is of Chinese descent, but because he is good friends with Italians he has eaten a lot of authentic Italian food. When we were dating and before I was able to visit his place, I asked him what I might find in his kitchen. He said that the contents of his cupboards gave the impression that an Italian lived in his apartment. This was a dish he made for me when we first met and I have loved it ever since. The saltiness of the prosciutto with the sweetness of the cantaloupe makes the perfect marriage.