Food feature: For a hassle-less bite during the holidays, consider canape | VailDaily.com

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Food feature: For a hassle-less bite during the holidays, consider canape

Prosciutto and melon canapes in Hyde Park, New York. This dish is from a recipe by the The Culinary Institute of America.

Prosciutto and melon canapes in Hyde Park, New York. This dish is from a recipe by the The Culinary Institute of America.

When it comes to planning party menus, we often think the most special dishes are the most complicated ones, with exotic and expensive ingredients. But often, it’s the classic recipes that rely on familiar flavors that your guests will remember.

Food trends are cyclical, and right now, to the benefit of party hosts and chefs, diners are craving unfussy recipes that rely on the quality of their ingredients. This party classic for prosciutto and melon canapes are a quick-and-easy small bite that will shine on your holiday table.

What is a canape?

A canape is a small, one-or-two bite hors d’oeuvre, usually consisting of a piece of bread or cracker topped with, well, anything. They are great for parties, since they are not too filling and easy to eat when one hand is occupied by a glass of champagne. And for the host, they are a breeze to make during the busy holiday season.

You can make toppings ahead of time, such as chutneys or caramelized onions, or even rely on prepared ingredients with great flavor combinations. Brie and fig jam on crackers, for example, needs no preparation.

Prosciutto, a salty cured ham from Italy, and melon are a classic combination. Thanks to our global food market, sweet cantaloupe and honey dew melons can be found year-round, and their brightness reminds us that there is some warm sunshine following the cold winter.

A slice of prosciutto adds a savory twist and a satisfying texture. We like to spread our soft white bread canape base with a little bit of mascarpone cheese before topping it, but you could even use a soft goat cheese or an herbed spreadable fresh cheese.

This canape relies on flavor from the melon. Look for melons with no stem attached, since that means it was picked mature. Also, search for ones with a thick, pronounced netting on the exterior of the skin, and it should be tan. Green skin means the melon was picked too early.

If you like a theme party, you can make canapes to match any idea, without spending all week in the kitchen. Host a wine tasting evening, with canapes to match different wine regions. Or a brunch party, with little French toast canapes topped with bacon jam. Whatever your party, remember that you don’t have to break a sweat — or the budget — to make it great. Though, now that you mention it, caviar is awfully nice on a canape.

Prosciutto and Melon Canape

(Start to finish: 25 minutes; makes 30 servings.)

8 very thin slices prosciutto (about 5 ounces)

30 (1 1/2-inch-diamater) round white bread canape bases, toasted

5 ounces mascarpone cheese, or as needed

30 pieces cantaloupe, cut into medium dice, or scooped into 1/2-inch balls

30 mint leaves to garnish

Fold the prosciutto to fit the canape bases.

To assemble the canapes, spread the canapé with some of the mascarpone cheese and top with a piece of prosciutto. Pipe a small mound of mascarpone in the center of each canapé and top with cut melon. Top each canape with a mint leaf.

Chef’s note

You can be very flexible with this recipe and easily change the look of the canape by simply cutting the melon into different shapes such as slices, rings and diamonds. Use a different base in place of the bread: Your favorite chip or a curled sweet potato chip can make a festive presentation.

Nutrition information per serving: 59 calories; 26 calories from fat; 3 grams fat (1 gram saturated; 0 grams trans fats); 9 milligrams cholesterol; 152 milligrams sodium; 6 grams carbohydrate; 0 grams fiber; 2 grams sugar; 2 grams protein.

This article was provided to The Associated Press by The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.