Mozzarella + Tomatoes = Yum-O!
Cook Time: 15 min
Yield: 32 mozzarella bites
Olive oil, for frying
1 pound ball fresh mozzarella, buy a piece wrapped, not packed in water
1 pound fresh smoked mozzarella, found in the specialty cheese case
1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup milk, eyeball it
2 cups Italian style bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
8 stems or large sprigs each fresh parsley, sage, thyme
Arrabiata - In A Hurry Dipping Sauce:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, moderate to hot heat level, eyeball the amount
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
Bamboo skewers, 6-inch, or party picks, for dipping
Heat 2 inches olive oil in a deep skillet over medium high heat. Cut each pound of mozzarella and smoked mozzarella into 16 cubes. Set up a breading station: flour, 2 eggs beaten with 1/3 cup milk, Italian bread crumbs mixed with a couple of handfuls of grated cheese. Reserve the chopped parsley. Roll fresh plain mozzarella in flour, dip in egg, then coat in bread crumbs. Bread all the plain mozzarella, then add chopped parsley to the bread crumbs. Coat the cubed smoked mozzarella in flour, egg, then Italian bread crumbs mixed with parsley. The chopped parsley will allow you to distinguish between the fresh and fresh smoked cheese once fried. Place herbs into hot oil and fry 30 to 45 seconds. Be careful not to stand over pan, the oil will spatter a little because of the water content in herbs. Remove herbs with a slotted kitchen tool and transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Season immediately with fine salt. Fry the mozzarella bites in batches in a single layer. Cook until evenly deep golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain and cool mozzarella bites on a paper towel-lined surface. Let stand and cool a few minutes so that the cheese will not be too runny when bitten into.
For dipping sauce, heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil, garlic and crushed pepper flakes. Saute garlic and hot pepper 2 or 3 minutes, and add tomatoes. Season with salt.
To assemble your serving plate, pile mozzarella bites, alternating them with fried herbs. Set the dipping sauce in a bowl along side the balls and pile bamboo skewers or party picks on the edge of the plate to spear and dip the bites.
Add some mixed olives, celery sticks, long bread sticks to round out this finger food selection.