Yid.Dish: Israeli Caprese Salad

By Leah Koenig

Published August 08, 2008.
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I made mozzarella cheese last night. This is not a shechechiyanu moment – I’ve done it before, using this, highly recommended, cheese making kit. But every time I accomplish the feat of turning a gallon of milk into two fistfuls of salty, stretchy, kosher cheese, it feels rather profound.

JCarrot

It also feels a little wasteful, as in, “I go to the trouble of pouring a whole gallon of milk into a pot, heating it 88 degrees, and stirring in vegetable rennet, and this is the thanks I get? A bunch of wasted whey?” I know I could probably save the whey that separates from the cheese curds, and use it for a million different things (suggestions welcome). But aside from pouring about 1 cup worth into my grateful plants, I dumped the rest of it down the drain. I thought my roommates might not appreciate two large Tupperwares full of yellow cheese-water crowding up the fridge.

So why did I go to all this trouble to make my own cheese? Well, to impress my Shabbat guests, of course – and also to make an “Israeli caprese salad,” which is a simple tweak on the Italian classic of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil, but might just be an entirely new creation.

Perhaps I should say a shechechiyanu afterall?

Israeli Caprese Salad Caprese salad originated in the Italian region of Campania, and is one of those simple, classic recipes that has existed, mostly unchanged, for a long time. I shook a liberal amount of the Middle Eastern spice za’atar on top, which added a delicious element of savory complexity…dare I say umami?

1 medium sized ball, fresh mozzarella

15 fresh basil leaves, washed

2 ripe heirloom tomatoes

1 Tbs Olive Oil

1 1/2 tsp za’atar

sea salt / fresh pepper

Slice the mozzarella into 1/4 inch thick rounds. Slice the tomatoes the same way and remove the seeds. Arrange mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes on a plate – you can do this any way you’d like, but the traditional way is to layer them in an alternating pattern. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with za’atar, salt, and pepper. (See below – note, that’s not my caprese below. My slightly more humble-looking, but very tasty cheese is pictured above.)


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