This has been one of the fastest, easiest, yet tastiest appetizers I’ve ever made. It’s basically an all-round snack. You can serve them as a starter or tapas, as a side dish with your soup of choice (Gazpacho makes a perfect match), they also make a healthy snack in between meals. Last but not least, they’re pretty darn good party food.
What I like about them is that they’re low fat, healthy even, without sacrificing flavor. I called them Spanish Varillas because, well, there’s really no deeper meaning to it … I just thought it sounded good! :)
Paper-thin slices Serrano ham
Lettuce or salad leaves
Optional: finely minced sun-dried tomatoes
Start with the greens! In case you haven’t noticed – I’m a vegetable nut. I love to eat bright colored food, nothing beats fresh, juicy vegetables and herbs. Shiny green chives and salad leaves are not only pretty, they also give just enough crunch. Chop the chives and give the leaves a quick wash.
You’ll also need plenty of these. I got the plain bread sticks, but they also sell them flavored. No clue if they also sell them spiked with garlic, but I’m sure that would be very tasty as well.
Spanish Jamon Serrano. Need I say more? This is meat as it was meant to be eaten. Delicious. Of course it also works with prosciutto or even Jambon d’Ardenne. Small topographic difference -Spain, Italy or Belgium- take your pick. Even though I like them all three, I feel the Serrano is slightly less salty and has a bit more flavor. Now if you really want to take things to a higher level you can always buy Culatello!
Use room temperature cream cheese because it will spread easier. I used low fat cream cheese – there are so many herbs and other ingredients added there’s plenty of flavor here anyway. But you don’t have to go low-fat, of course :)
Add the chives and a good pinch of black pepper. Now mash, whisk or beat until fluffy. What gives it an extra boost is to also add finely minced sun-dried tomatoes. I didn’t have any around or I would have used them as well.
I’ve always been told to keep tasting the things I prepare. Who am I to argue? For the record: that is not my hand, my fingers are not this masculine!
Now grab a slice of Serrano, mine were a little on the short side, so I used two. Spread a dollop of cream cheese on top.
Now drape some of the salad leaves over the ham. No need to be fussy about it, just make sure they’re sticking out a bit. Even though it looks like some kind of bizarre meat necklace now, trust me, in the end it’ll look good!
Put a bread stick on top and start rolling! This is why the lettuce had to stick out, it’ll peep out of the sides here and there. Told you it would look good!
Make as many as you need, and then some, they usually go fast here! Put them on a platter, sprinkle some Parmesan on top and serve with a little extra Parmesan on the side. Put the remaining cream cheese in a small bowl so it can be used as an extra dip. When used as party food I recommend breaking the bread sticks in half to make smaller varillas.