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Italian Food by Elizabeth David, was first published in London in 1954.  In it, Mrs. David describes Mozarella in two ways:  “At its best [it] has great charm, but badly cooked it is disastrous.”  When Mrs. David recorded that opinon, imported Mozarella was not available in England.  “Probably,” she speculated, “For the very good reason that it is only fit to eat if absolutely dripping fresh.”  She used a substitute.

Now, however, fresh Mozarella is available in many lands, including Mrs. David’s England and in the United States.  So a person frying it is in little danger of badly cooking it, if the Mozarella she starts with is of the fresh sort, and not the rubbery substance that may call itself ‘Mozarella’ but, cannot turn itself into anything edible that is good.  Fresh Mozarella may be found afloat in little brine-filled plastic sacks or vacumn sealed–and either way, it will be a bit soft to the touch and moist.

Fried Mozarella with Lettuces, Marinated Tomatoes, and Fresh Basil Vinaigrette (for 4 people)

The Lettuces, Marinated Tomatoes, and Fresh Basil Vinaigrette may be served without the Fried Mozarella as a Salad Course.  With the fried cheese, it becomes a Light Lunch or a First Course in a Menu with no Salad Course.

I.  Making the Salad

Ingredients for the Salad:

  • any mixture of lettuces (a little over a cup for each person)
  • 4 ounces of cherry tomatoes, chopped in small pieces
  • 1/3 cup of fresh basil leaves, rolled up and cut into slivers
  • 1/4 cup of pine nuts, browned in a dry pan or in a 400 F oven, and coarsely chopped

Ingredients for the Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup of Olive Oil
  • 2 teaspoons of Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon of Dijon Mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sugar
  • freshly ground salt and black pepper

1.  Mix together the tomatoes, basil, pine nuts, and garlic and grind some salt and black pepper over everything:

2.  Mix together the ingredients for the vinaigrette and pour it over the tomato mixture:

3.  Set the mixture aside to marinate while you wash and dry the lettuces and bread and fry the cheese, if you are making the Fried Mozarella:

4.  If the salad is for a Salad Course, you may want to skip the Fried Mozarella.  In this case, divide the lettuces among plates and spoon the tomato mixture and vinaigrette over them just before serving…

If you are adding the Fried Mozarella, divide the lettuces among the plates before frying the cheese.  See the explanation below for:  Making the Fried Mozarella.

Making the Fried Mozarella

Ingredients:

  • about 8 ounces of Fresh Mozarella, cut in 8 slices, 2 per person: a block or log-shaped piece of cheese will be easier to slice than several small round ones and the slices will all be of a similar size
  • Panko for breading…fresh bread cumbs are also fine
  • flour for breading
  • 2 or 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3 or 4 Tablespoons of Olive Oil, or a little more if the pan becomes too dry as the slices of cheese fry

Equipment:

  • a cooling rack on which to place the breaded slices before frying them
  • a wide pan with a heavy, flat bottom

1.  Bread the slices by putting them consecutively in :  flour, egg, and Panko.

2.  Place the breaded slices on a cooling rack as you make them:

3.  Heat 3 or 4 Tablespoons of Olive Oil over Medium heat and fry the slices (adding a bit more oil if the pan becomes too dry), until they are golden–a few minutes on each side:

…It doesn’t matter if a little cheese begins to ooze out the sides:

4.  Spoon the marinated tomatoes and vinaigrette over the salads, place 2 slices of cheese on each of the plates, and serve the salads with the hot cheese slices right away:

A Note:  Without the Fried Mozarella, Lettuces, Marinated Tomatoes, and Fresh Basil Vinaigrette is the Salad Course in the Dinner Menu:  Killing Time with a Killer.

© Elizabeth Laeuchli, the diplomatickitchen, 2011-2012

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