Pairing Fruits and Meats
Most fruit, dried or fresh, is taken to a delectable level of flavor through roasting. Dried fruits become soft and mellow while fresh ones melt into a caramelized jam consistency that pairs beautifully with crispy, slightly charred cured meats.
Try dried apricots wrapped with highly seasoned Danish or Hungarian salami. The vibrancy of the spices goes well with the intensity of the fruit, and the high fat content of the salami turns the meat into a salty, crispy shell that shatters when you bite into it, revealing the warmed apricot inside. Or make little salami cones filled with raisins, currants, or dried cranberries for a pretty and tasty variation.
Ham is another good meat for wrapping fruit in, especially when shaved into wafer thin slices that toast well in the oven. Try it draped around grapes or squares of melon, or tuck a plump prune inside its savory folds for a roasted nibble that turns the prune into a silky smooth filling.
Adding Flavor Punch
Turn your appetizers into more substantial fare by choosing a few flavorful additions.
Cheese is a welcome addition to these savory morsels. Try pairing prosciutto with feta cheese and fresh or dried figs, or Black Forest ham wrapped around a cube of Gruyere and a semi-dried tomato. Ricotta or mascarpone are luscious fillings combined with roasted strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries, and Havarti is heavenly paired with stone fruits such as cherries, peaches, or plums. Make bundles of parma ham filled with pecorino and dried or fresh pears, or try a slice of Fontina topped with dried apples and a drizzle of molasses.
Nuts add a rustic note and an additional layer of texture and flavor. Try pecans soaked in maple syrup or almonds in honey. Toss macadamias or Brazil nuts with olive oil, sea salt, and fresh herbs before tucking them inside each meat-wrapped parcel. The oil will help them retain their crunch as they roast, while the herbs will infuse the entire bundle with the fragrance of thyme, rosemary, or dill. Give walnuts a light dusting of cumin or coriander and pair with a creamy cheese and darkly sweet dates.
Serve In Style
Make your cured meat appetizers in a variety of shapes and sizes so your guests can readily identify the various flavor combinations you've chosen. Roll them in scrolls or wrap them into bundles, twist them into cones or fold into simple envelopes.
While you could make these appetizers ahead of time, they're also a fun Do-It-Yourself project for your guests. Provide an assortment of wrappers (Parma and Black Forest ham, prosciutto, bacon, salami), fillings (dried and fresh fruits), and extras (cheese, nuts, herbs), and get everyone started rolling their own. They can be roasted in large numbers in the oven, or just a few at a time with a toaster oven. Set on baking sheets covered with baking paper so they don't stick, and roast for 15-20 minutes at 350 F. Cool for a few minutes before eating so no one burns their tongue on a bubbling filling.
These nibbles are packed with more than enough flavor to stand on their own, but if you do want a few dips, provide an array of sweet ones such as real maple syrup, sweet chili sauce, or Manuka honey.