Back to basics: cooking! Melted Scamorza Done Another Way...

I've been so serious lately! I think it's time to go back to cooking and relax. Today for lunch I hit upon a new way to do an old Italian favorite: melted scamorza, and I want to tell you about it. And write about it here so I remember! I tend to invent dishes as a function of what I find (and don't find) in my ice box, and sometimes, by chance, I hit on a winner! But then, if I don't write it down somewhere quick, I forget all about it.

I suspect scamorza is not an easy cheese to find outside of Italy: it's similar to mozzarella, but aged some more and therefore it doesn't shed all that water when it melts. It comes in two varieties: plain and smoked (affumicata).

I prefer the plain, my husband the smoked but it doesn't really matter. Both are good and easy to cook. Just throw them in a frying pan, let them melt on medium-high heat and flip them over so that they are nicely golden on both sides. It takes a couple of minutes.

Easy? You bet. And if you haven't got scamorza you can do it with almost any semi-creamy cheese at hand, even Camembert or Brie (cut in thick slices - leave the skin on, it has a nice taste).

What did I do today that was different? Simple, I added mushrooms and ham, and when I was finished it looked very unusual and pretty, and the tastes of ham and mushrooms really complemented the cheese.

I happened to have some already cooked sliced mushrooms at hand (they were plain, pan-fried) and a couple of cooked ham slices - but you could use equally well any other kind of ham, including smoked ham.

First step. I grabbed my scissors and cut the ham up in short strips, which I threw into a grease-free frying pan (the Teflon type)over a medium fire, letting them fry (without fat - that's important) until they started to dry (don't toast too much or else the ham strips curl up, shrink and become too salty). By the way, fried ham this way is something I always use in lieu of bacon: much less fat and better for you health. Also it gives a more delicate taste to almost any dish that you'd normally do with bacon.

Second step. Add the mushrooms and chunks of cheese artfully, so that the cheese is in direct contact with the pan, and prettily surrounded by the mushrooms and ham. And proceed as usual: keep frying until the cheese is golden underneath. Don't bother to flip the cheese over but make sure it's soft all the way through.

Et voilĂ ! Slide into a (previously heated) serving dish and serve.

Presto fatto. Tell me how you like it!