One of the best ways I can think of to eat tomatoes and basil is with fresh mozzarella, good bread, and a glass (or two) of wine. Making your own fresh mozzarella only takes 30 minutes (with a little multi-tasking time, too) and is really easy, and the end result is so delicious, especially if you’re lucky enough to live near a dairy farm as we are. The mozzarella is just so creamy and tastes grassy, like spring.
The recipe comes directly from Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll, and you can get what you need (mainly, a thermometer, rennet – you can even get organic vegetable rennet!, citric acid and cheese salt) from her website (www.cheesemaking.com) pretty inexpensively. On the side we had a simple salad of Boston lettuce and cucumber, both from our CSA, dressed with good extra-virgin olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Fresh mozzarella cheese (see below)
- Ripe tomatoes, ideally from a local farm
- Fresh basil, ideally from a pot on your patio, in whole leaf form
- Really good extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt, freshly ground black pepper
- Good, crusty bread
Layer, in an attractive way, slices of cheese, tomato and basil leaves. Drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve with bread, and wine, and call it a day.
30-Minute Mozzarella – makes 3/4 – 1 lb.
- 1 1/2 tsp citric acid dissolved in 1/2 cup cool water
- 1 gallon whole milk (you can use 2% milk instead, though you may get a little less cheese in the end)
- 1/4 tsp rennet dissolved in 1/4 cup cool water
- 1 tsp cheese salt
Pour milk into a large pot (with a dairy thermometer hooked on the rim), and stir in the dissolved citric acid.
Over medium-low heat, bring the milk to 90 degrees, stirring occasionally (the milk may begin to look curdled).
Stir in the dissolved rennet and cook, stirring gently and constantly, until the temperature reaches 100 – 105 degrees, and curds should be clumping together. Turn off heat and continue to stir gently for another 3 – 5 minutes,
until whey is almost clear and the curds are in big clumps.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer curds to a microwave-safe bowl and drain off liquid. Heat curds in the microwave on HI for 1 minute.
Using a spoon, drain off any liquid and knead the cheese with the back of the spoon until it begins to look smooth and shiny.
Heat cheese two more times in the microwave, on HI, for 35 seconds each,
kneading well with the back of the spoon until very smooth and shiny. Add the salt after the last microwave cook-time, kneading it in.
Fill a bowl with ice water, and continue kneading and stretching the cheese like taffy until it cools enough so you can handle it.
Roll the cheese into balls and
submerge in the ice water bath for about 30 minutes, which will cool the inside of the cheese quickly and help keep a smooth consistency throughout (you can also eat it immediately if you’d rather).
Wrap in waxed paper and store in a plastic container until ready to use. Wonderful on pizza or cubed in pasta dishes, too.