Saturday, 28 May 2011

Not so classic Insalata Caprese (Southern Italian mozzarella, basil and tomato salad)

Italy... land of extreme beauty, blue sea and sky, exceedingly good looking people and fantastic food. All good things to eat come in three colours: green, red and white, the colours of our tricolore!
Today, I prepared some food. The colours of the Italian flag, really predominant: red tomatoes, green parsley and basil and beautiful, soft, white milky mozzarella.
In Italy we LOVE our cheese. Unlike other nations, we try not to make a big song and dance about how good it is. The truth is that if you want to have a REAL cheese experience and try something different from the soft "plop" you get in supermarkets, there's only one place to go: ITALY!
 According to celebrated English cook Jamie Oliver, who wishes he were Italian and whom we very dearly love, our cheese is the best and burrata, from my area, is the best cheese ever! Good man, Jamie!
I took a photo of a fantastic stall in Alberobello, not too far from Bari where they sold lovely cheese and meats. 
A stall where they sold cheese and meats... and a lot more!
I love the place, with its original architecture. I have been there millions of times and the best time was in Winter, when the tourists have gone away and I could really be nosey and look through the net curtains to see the local people live their daily life, only if just for an instant.
Trulli, in Alberobello, Bari
Last week, I was at my friend Emily's farm, Norton's Dairy Farm, in Frettenham, Norfolk. Emily is an enthusiastic farmer, who is in the process of perfecting the art of cheese making. Emily already makes fantastic butter which looks deliciously golden, without the addition of E numbers and can be bought at the Farm Shop. Emily demonstrated how to make mozzarella, on a very small scale, outside of Italy, for a group of school children and their teachers. I gave a little talk and answered questions. It was fun. A lady called Bibby from the Country Trust even made focaccia!
Cheese making in a very old barn
Emily looks like a scientist... a pretty one!
Today, I wanted to make something using mozzarella, as I love it! When I am at my little house in Campania, with my husband, I buy fresh buffalo mozzarella, which we find delicious to eat fresh. For cooking, cow's mozzarella is better, as buffalo mozzarella doesn't melt and stays lumpy. A "man with van," who sells cheese keeps trying to sell me the basic stuff you need to make mozzarella with. Next time, in Summer, I will give it a go.
Insalata caprese
Four or five servings
4 mozzarelle, sliced
4 large tomatoes, sliced
handful of basil leaves
handful black olives
preserved artichokes
few generous glugs olive oil
the juice of half a lemon
freshly milled black pepper
mixed salad leaves
(as much as you need to fill the middle of your
This is so easy! Slice your tomatoes and mozzarella and arrange alternately, in a circle, round the rim of a large serving plate. I also used some artichokes, preserved in oilve oil, as I really love artichokes!
In the middle of this "crown" place some green "stuff" anything you like! I used arugola (rocket) and baby spinach leaves, then added a handful of black olives. But you can be as creative as you like! I dressed my salad with olive oil and lemon juice, but just good olive oil and plenty of black pepper would be enough. Olive oil does have a wonderful taste!

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