"Bread Baskets" with Cherry Tomatoes & Mozzarella
Tomato and mozzarella- a crowd-pleaser every time and the just about as typically Italian as you can get... and what's not to love about those flavors together? Some things are just meant to be!
But still... there is room for variation and there are many ways to make the "Insalata Caprese" your own... which I why I am proudly presenting to you my version, which I made for lunch today. Isn't that just a lovely little dish of Summer sunshine right there?
This simple little idea will be a guaranteed to get you a "wow!" of approval- whether you serve it as a brunch or light lunch offering, or as an appetizer or party snack some Summer evening...
...and the best part about it is that it is not only elegant and impressive to look at, but also easy to make, delicious, inexpensive and actually very no-nonsense eating too!
I used the last few slices of "Tremezzini" to make mine, but you can use any soft white bread- it just needs to be soft enough for you to shape and form into those little baskets without it crumbling and falling apart. To make 2 portions, I needed 6 squares of bread sliced bread, 1 mozzarella ball, 8 cherry tomatoes, some fresh basil and thyme and a couple of caper berries as a delicious but optional garnish... I just love them!
I hate to brag... but they look pretty-darned fantastic if you ask me!!!
The whole secret here is to use a rolling pin to flatten the bread, which makes is denser and more compact, so that it will become pliable to bring into form and crisper and more stable once it bakes. If you were to try to shape a regular slice of bread, you would find that it would crumble and break... another reason why the Tramezzini were really good for making this.
Once you have flattened the bread down, cut it into squares- I used 3 per portion, so that it would, a.) be a decent amount that would make a satisfying snack and b.) hold together well. Although I think that point a.) was more important to me than point b.) :-)
I pressed the bread slices into shape into a couple of small baking dishes, but of course you can use whatever you have handy, which could be maybe even a muffin tray- although those portions would be too small in my opinion... although, little bite-sized version might also be nice, now you come to think of it!
I brushed them very lightly with olive oil and popped them into a hot oven, around 175°C for 15-20 minutes until they were crisp and golden brown.
And all I needed to do then was to fill them up!
I first laid out a ring of halved cherry tomatoes around the outside edge and then set a half of a ball of mozzarella cheese on top. I seasoned them with salt and pepper, garnished with the caper berries, basil and thyme and drizzled them lightly with olive oil... and as you can see- they look pretty close to perfection!
Isn't this just a little bit nicer than one of those typical Caprese salads? It's ok... you don't have to answer that question :-)
Summer on a plate!