Tag Archives: mozzarella

Appetizers for Lunch

It has happened that one of my favorite ways to eat lunch is as an appetizer. Think about all the things you love about appetizers – artisan cheeses, Italian meats, fresh fruit, crackers and bread … why can’t those things be your lunch?

So my new brown-bag lunch of choice these days has been a wedge of good cheese, some good crackers and fresh fruit. It is great to nibble on if you typically eat at your desk …

Even on weekends, Grant and I are known to have heavy appetizers for our mid-day meal and it’s perfectly wonderful and filling.

On one recent trip to the mountains, I sliced up some of our farm tomatoes with fresh mozzarella, basil from our garden and toasted baguette. Seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper, it was wonderful to make our own little crostini.

Next, I made a plate of soft Goat Lady Dairy cheese, prosciutto (with cracked pepper), grapes and a hard Parmesan-like cheese that I impulse-purchased at Whole Foods. It was fabulous!

Both were perfect with a crisp glass of wine or a cold beer. And they took moments to put together.

Enjoy your summer lunches, friends! xoxo

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Fried Squash Blossoms

Fried squash blossoms are one of those things I’ve always wanted to make just because. Do I like squash? Heck no. Do I like deep-fried things? No more than any normal person. Do I like flowers? Not to eat.

Yet something called to me – perhaps it was that one (single) good scene in “Eat, Pray, Love” where Julia Roberts cuts into a fried squash blossom in Italy and it oozes cheesy goodness. I wanted to create that piece of art, with the crunchy exterior and fresh herbed cheese melting inside.

The batter is like a tempura – I don’t know how this limp little flower can taste that good, but the basil, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese don’t hurt. Sprinkled with sea salt, you have the perfect snack or salad-topper.

You can find squash blossoms at the farmers’ market, or better, just pick them from a friend’s (or unknowing neighbor’s) garden! Squash plants produce way too many flowers as it is. I would encourage you to use big zucchini blossoms, not the small squash blossoms that I had – they simply weren’t big enough to hold all the cheese and basil I tried to stuff inside, and most ended up ripping.

I adapted mine from an Anne Burrell recipe, which I picked for the simple flour-white wine batter. How could that be bad? Next time, I think I’ll experiment with different cheeses, just to see.

Fried Squash Blossoms

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, patted dry and cubed
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup chiffonade basil leaves
  • 8 squash flowers (preferably zucchini)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • Canola oil, for frying

In a medium bowl, toss together the mozzarella, Parmesan and the basil chiffonade. Gently stick your finger inside the flower all the way to the base where the flower meets the stem and carefully break off the stamen. When doing this be careful not to rip through the flower. Squeeze 1-2 tablespoons of the mozzarella mixture into an oblong shape and gently stuff it into each flower. Squeeze the flower around the cheese to close. Reserve. Don’t worry if you ripped them a little – the batter kind of fills all the holes!

In a small bowl, combine the flour and 3/4 cup of white wine. Mix until it becomes a loose batter adding more white wine, if necessary.

Add oil to a saucepan until it reaches a depth of 1-inch. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Test the oil by dropping a couple of beads of the batter into it. When they float instantly the oil is ready. If the oil begins to smoke, it is too hot. Set up a paper towel drying situation before frying the flowers.

Dip the flowers, 1 at time, into the batter and carefully drop them into the oil. Fry on both sides until they are golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the flowers from the oil, drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Continue with the remaining flowers.

Garnish with basil, if you like. I personally loved these, even though they weren’t as cheesy as I would prefer. But that was my fault. Perhaps next time I’ll try grated mozz?

Enjoy your summer tasties, friends! xoxo

Tomato Pie

I have a new relationship with tomatoes now that I live in The South. I walked into the office lunch room last week and a coworker was making one of Grant’s favorite things: tomato sandwich. Tomato slices, cracked pepper, mayo, bread. A BLT without the B and the L. Okay, I thought…

Then, I went to a dinner with my closest girlfriends. We all made something and the official debutante of the group came with two tomato pies: premade pie crust + garden tomatoes + caramelized vidalia onions + mayo + sharp cheddar cheese. It was SOOOOO good. I took extra home and decided to make my own.

So I turned to my Food Network Magazine and tried their cover recipe: heirloom tomato pie. Homemade cornmeal crust, then manchego and mozzarella cheese with caramelized onions, chives, thyme and parsley; topped with farmers’ market tomatoes and baked until tender.

Just delicious. I beg you to try it – get rid of those tomatoes that are about to go too soft on your window sill. If making for a week-day, just make the crust in advance.

Tomato Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons shredded manchego cheese
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 1/4 pounds mixed heirloom tomatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Fresh basil (for garnish)

Make the crust: Pulse the flour, cornmeal and fine salt in a food processor to combine. Add the butter and 3 tablespoons manchego; pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal with pea-size bits of butter. Drizzle in 4 tablespoons ice water and pulse until the dough comes together; add 1 more tablespoon ice water if necessary. Turn out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and pat into a disk. Wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 45 minutes (or up to 3 days).

Put the dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper and roll into a 13-inch round (I had to let mine get the chill off first). Transfer the dough to a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie plate. Fold the overhang under itself and crimp the edges. Pierce the bottom of the crust all over with a fork. Refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line the crust with foil, then fill with dried beans. Bake until the edges are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and beans and continue baking until golden all over, 10 to 15 more minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. Meanwhile, slice the tomatoes and toss with 1 tsp kosher salt in a colander. Let drain, gently tossing occasionally.

Make the filling: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool.

Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.

Combine the remaining 3/4 cup manchego, the mozzarella, mayonnaise, breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons each chives and parsley, the thyme, 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and pepper, and the sauteed onion in a bowl. Spread in the crust.

Arrange the tomatoes on top. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with pepper. Bake until the tomatoes are browned, about 50 minutes.


Slice big wedges and serve with fresh basil.

There’s nothing wrong with this. The mixture of cheeses, herbs, onion, sweet crust and juicy tomatoes = the best.

Perfect for your next summer party. Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Asparagus, Melon and Mozzarella Salad with Crispy Prosciutto

Brunch with my girls – all gussied up in springtime dresses with light cardigans to protect against the breeze, new pedicures shining under out-from-hibernation sandals and plates of delicious fare to celebrate the season.

I’m lucky to have so many foodie friends who go all-out for a simple ladies’ brunch. Miss Valentine brought homemade orange-cranberry scones with English clotted cream and raspberry preserves…

Erika brought bacon-leek quiche, Lindsay brought tea cookies and Seton made brown-sugar bacon and poured spicy Bloody Marys and orange-mango mimosas.

What did I make, my friends? A fresh salad of roasted asparagus, sweet cantaloupe, fresh mozzarella, crispy proscuitto and toasted pine nuts. All tossed in a lemon vinaigrette. I adapted the recipe from Giada di Laurentiis, for your pleasure:

Asparagus, Melon and Mozzarella Salad with Crispy Prosciutto

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 small cantaloupe (about 12 ounces), peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Toss asparagus with salt, pepper and 2 T EVOO. Roast 7-8 min, until just tender but still with a bite. Set aside to cool and reduce oven to 350.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the prosciutto in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until crispy. Drain on paper towels. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the lemon juice and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Whisk until combined. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the melon and mozzarella cheese and toss until all ingredients are combined.

Arrange the asparagus on a platter. Using a slotted spoon, spoon the melon and mozzarella cheese on top of the asparagus. Drizzle any remaining vinaigrette over the top. Crumble the prosciutto over the top, then pine nuts.

Finally, serve to your lady friends!

This was a nice combination of flavors. A twist on the classic melon-prosciutto appetizer. I normally hate melon (because I’m a closeted picky eater), but this was so pretty, I couldn’t help but enjoy it.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Oh, the ways to use tomatoes

Heirloom cherry tomatoes

The quality of tomatoes down here never fails to woo me. They are big, they are beefy and they come in a rainbow of colors.

At least three times per week, I make the simplest of lunches or snacks: sliced tomato, salt and pepper, layered with fresh mozzarella and basil clipped straight from my garden. Finally, drizzle with olive oil. Sometimes, I make toasted baguette slices rubbed with olive oil and garlic to catch all the juices.

And then there are the BLTs. My favorite summer sandwich. Simple and easy to jazz up with avocado, spicy lettuces and the best bread you can find. The secret is really in the bread. Here’s how I made mine recently:

  • Two thick slices of sourdough bread from Ollie’s, toasted with a little butter
  • Thick slices of heirloom tomatoes, peppered
  • Sliced avocado, salted
  • Two thick slices of bacon, crisped
  • Mixed greens (I just used leftover salad from the bag)
  • Mayo (add a little lemon zest for fun)

While the bacon is cooking, make yourself some iced tea. This was a combination of black tea, raspberry tea and fresh ginger (plus Kentucky mint from my garden!). Sweetened softly and served with lemon wedges.

Layer up your sammich, pour yourself a drink and dive in, my friends! I like the peppery arugula from the salad mix cutting through the richness of the avocado. The tomatoes were sweet and juicy and the bacon was smoky and salty. Just wonderful. And oh, the mayo and butter are key.

Hope you all had a fabulous weekend! Mine involved baskets and baskets of peaches…xoxo

Cheese and chorizo scramble

The best way to eat breakfast is with the least amount of effort. I typically hate chopping, slicing and baking in the mornings. What I hate even more is having to go to the grocery store in the morning. Which is why, if you simply have eggs, you can turn any weekly leftovers into something satisfying.

That is where this weekend breakfast dish came from…

Cheesy Chorizo Scramble

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 4 T milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 oz. Spanish chorizo, chopped
  • 4 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped into cubes
  • 2 small shallots, chopped
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 T chopped Italian parsley

In a nonstick skillet, heat 2 tsp EVOO over medium and add the shallots. Stir until starting to become soft, 4-5 min., then add chorizo. Cook the chorizo until the fat starts to render, another 3-4 min., then stir in tomatoes and cook 1 more min.

Meanwhile, whisk eggs, milk and salt and pepper to taste. Pour eggs over chorizo mixture and reduce heat to low, stirring constantly. When eggs are almost set, add mozzarella and stir gently until starting to melt. Sprinkle in chopped parsley and serve!

The chorizo makes this dish a bit spicy and full of exotic flavor. The mozzarella is a nice chewy addition that doesn’t overpower the dish. Perfect for brunch or lunch because the eggs are really an afterthought to all the add-ins. Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Pesto lasagna

Got cheese?

For the person who is usually unimpressed by traditional lasagna, this one is a winner. It is simple and easy, and allows a lot of variation. For example, adding mushrooms or sun-dried tomatoes or sausages. It is hard to go wrong with homemade pesto melted into creamy, cheesytown with fresh mozzarella and ricotta cheeses.

We thoroughly enjoyed this meal for two dinners and two lunches. Just delicious. And I LOVE pesto.

WriteGal’s Pesto Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 1 package lasagna noodles
  • 1 pound chicken sausage (or other flavorful sausage)
  • 1 tub of part-skim ricotta cheese (about 1 c.)
  • 10-16 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced (Whole Foods has the best deal on this, I think)
  • 1 large bunch fresh basil (about 2 cups), leaves and stems (those soft stems have flavor! Use them!)
  • 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, plus another 1-2 c. for layering
  • 1/4 c. pine nuts
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325.

Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. While that heats, brown your sausage in a nonstick skillet until well-cooked. Set aside. Add salt and lasagna noodles to the water and cook per the box’s directions. You want them with a little bite, 6-8 min.

In a blender or food processor, add the olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, basil and Parmesan. Process until combined, adding salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a bowl and mix with ricotta. Set aside.

To assemble lasagna, grease a glass baking dish and layer the lasagna noodles, then pesto mixture (dollop a few spoonfuls and spread as best you can), then add some sausage, then some Parmesan cheese, then mozzarella. Repeat until you are out of pesto, ending with mozzarella and lots of Parmesan on top. It will look uneven and not exactly like something that will turn out well. Trust me…

Place in oven and bake until melted, bubbling and slightly browned on top, roughly 20 min. Let stand for another 20 min.

Cut into large pieces and serve! I love how the ricotta makes everything creamier and the mozzarella is salty and stringy. And of course the pesto, with that bite of flavor. I was pleased to see that a little went a long way, and I only did five or six layers. Even if you have two layers, this will be good!

Please enjoy, friends! xoxo

Cold pizza

(DIY fast food)

Cold pizza brings me back to college. You wake up from a night of heavy socializing and eat a remaining slice of pizza that may have been stuffed (with box) into the fridge, or maybe was just left out all  night. The breakfast of university coeds.

Now I am older and much more mature. Instead of eating leftover frozen or delivery pizza, I eat leftover homemade pizza. The process of making pizza appeals to both the adult and child within – you get to play with dough and decorate it and have the satisfaction of knowing that you made everything with your own two hands.

Last night, Jesse and I had a little DIY pizza night. I made the dough the night before (recipe below) and then we rolled it out for pies.

Mine was margherita style: topped with olive oil, garlic, Parmesan, fresh diced tomatoes, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella. I also sprinkled it with cracked pepper and sea salt (and red pepper flakes). It was yummy and salty and scratched my itch for some fresh basil.

Jesse really hit a homerun with his. First of all, he shaped his into a perfect sphere, whereas mine was a sort of random shape, which is totally what I was going for. Secondly, the boy made his own marinara sauce! I told him I could buy him some, or he could just make it himself:

Saute a chopped yellow onion in olive oil, add 2 cloves chopped garlic, stir, then add one can of diced tomatoes, simmer, season with S&P and dried oregano. Puree in a blender to make smooth.

I didn’t expect him to actually do it, but something lit a fire under him and I am still amazed by how good it turned out! I’m not a big marinara fan myself, but I tell you it looked and tasted at least as quality as the stuff you can buy.

Next, he topped his with a ton of Boar’s Head pepperoni and shredded mozarella cheese.

His took a little longer to cook because of the mounds of meat on top, but it was so, so good. Hot, or cold. Jesse declared that he is “never going to buy pizza again!”

We now have dinner for two nights and the leftover ingredients to make pesto-tomato-mozarella panini tomorrow night. All I have to do is make the focaccia…

Recipe for pizza dough, adapted from the Williams-Sonoma Baking book

(If you don’t have a KitchenAid, use a wooden spoon)

2 packages dry yeast

2 1/4 c. warm water

2 tsp sugar

1/4 c. olive oil

5 c. flour, plus more for kneading

1 T sea salt

Semolina flour, for shaping (or corn meal)

Note: this is best made a day in advance.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, dissolve yeast and sugar in water and let stand until foamy, 5-10 min. Add oil, flour and salt. Using a dough hook, stir on slow until smooth and elastic, 8-10 min. Turn out on a floured work space and knead another 5 min., adding flour as needed. Form into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1-2 hours in a warm place, until it doubles in size. Punch it down, cover again and place in the fridge. Let it come to room temp. before shaping.

Preheat oven to 500. Turn dough out on floured surface and cut in half. Shape each half into a ball and let rest for 10 min. Lightly dust each ball with flour and roll or stretch into your crust shape. Transfer to a pan sprinkled with semolina flour and shape it as needed. Brush away extra semolina, as it will burn.

Top with your desired toppings and bake until everything is melted and the crust is browned and cooked all the way to the middle.

Serve hot, and enjoy, friends! xoxo