Mozzarella di bufala is made with fresh buffalo milk. This delicacy is a specialty of Campania, Italy, where the production of dairy products is rooted in the region’s ancient Greco-Roman past. In 1570, the great connnoisseur of regional Italian cookery, Bartolomeo Scappi, mentioned “mozzarella di bufala” for the first time in his culinary treatise, Opera. The word “mozzarella” derives from the verb “mozzare”, a hand gesture which divides an elongated piece of “pasta filata” or freshly pulled cheese into single “mozzarelle” (Italian, for mozzarellas).
Notice the photo with the mozzarella and layout of ingredients – these starters are intended to be fun to make, pleasing to the eye and exquisite. The final photo is what you get … and what you eat!
Prep time: 15 to 20 minutes
One 8-ounce fresh buffalo mozzarella packed in water (cut into 4 slices & then in half
Four 2-ounce fresh buffalo mozzarellas (each cut in half)
4 wooden skewers, set aside until ready to use
8 slices olive bread
8 fresh basil leaves
1 vine-ripened tomato, cut into 4 slices
1 Heirloom tomato (reddish-yellow in color), cut into 4 slices
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Salt and pepper, to taste
12 olives, for garnish
1. If using one 8-ounce mozzarella, cut it into 4 slices and cut each slice in half to yield a total of 8 pieces.
If using four 2-ounce mozzarellas, cut each one in half (you will have a total of 8 pieces). Set aside.
2. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter or a glass, cut each slice of bread to yield a total of 8 round bread slices. Save the leftover bread pieces in a sealed food storage bag for another use (such as enjoying them on a future binge).
3. For each serving, use 2 bread rounds, 2 basil leaves, 2 mozzarella slices, 1 vine-ripened tomato slice, 1 Heirloom tomato slice and assemble as follows:
4. Push a skewer through the center of one bread round, positioning the bread within a 1/2-inch of the skewer’s tip. Follow with a basil leaf and then alternate the mozzarella and tomato slices. While assembling, drizzle oil and sprinkle a little salt and pepper on the mozzarella slices.
5. End with a basil leaf and a bread round.
6. With shears, trim the remaining skewer, leaving 1/2-inch of the skewer tip outside the bread round.
7. Repeat above assembly three more times. Arrange on a platter, garnish with olives and serve immediately.
Wine suggestion: chilled Greco di Tufo – this is one of my favorite whites from the region of Campania, Italy.
Note: Do not prepare this recipe ahead of time, as the mozzarella will become watery and change its texture.
Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real