Tuesday, 7 August 2012

For the Love of...Tomatoes & Fresh Mozzarella!

People who know me are aware that I have a brown thumb.  I joke that I can take care of my children OR plants...pick one.  Larry and I chose a spot for a garden after a few years on our acreage.  The next year, we cut out some of the weeds and stick trees.  The following summer: we borrowed by Dad's rototiller and dug up the dirt.  Repeat and repeat the last step.

You see, May and June are really busy for our family.  There is a short spring football season, about 5-6 weeks, meaning we may get home by 8:30 p.m. when coaching and practicing are done, and during those months, all four of us are finishing off our respective school years.  Making and eating a freshly-made meal (not frozen, not reheated, not from Subway, A&W, or DQ) is a treat - with the whole family seated together is a bonus.  Having clean clothes and making sure the home will not be condemned by a health inspector are also worthy goals.  Therefore, gardening is nowhere near the top of the list, and, sadly, some of the house plants don't even make it...

Although I'm no horticulturalist, I respect and appreciate others' talents on display in their gardens, yards, pots, and window boxes.  I would say that my favorite garden-grown treat is a sun-warmed tomato: the vine has a wonderful, savory smell and the temperature of the tomato is perfect.  Today I'll share some of my favorite things to make with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.

Tomato & Bocconcini Skewers

The Italian word for fresh mozzarella is bocconcini.  Around here, one can find it around the deli near the ricotta.  Bocconcini comes in a tub in a few different sizes:  regular ones are egg-sized and the littlest ones are Cocktail size, about as big as large grapes.  It's stored in whey or water so you have to fish it out.  The fresh cheese has a bit of a spongy texture; not everyone loves it, but you might want to give it a try.

I saw a picture on Pinterest of caprese skewers so my BFF from Calgary, Laurel, and I made up some "appies" (as she always calls them) on Miriam's birthday weekend.  We made them, adding some crusty focaccia squares for texture, and enjoyed them so much that we made a second batch!

  • Focaccia bread (bought or made from an easy recipe such as this one from www.allrecipes.com [omit cheese topping])
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Cocktail, cherry, or grape tomatoes
  • Bocconcini
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • 6" wooden skewers or smaller ones if you want to make minis


If you're baking your own bread, start making that first.  When we ran out of store-bought focaccia and the store didn't have any more, my hubby whipped up the linked recipe above; he said it was really easy and I was very impressed and appreciative!

Pour 1 cup or more balsamic vinegar into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan and boil down to half the volume.  It will become a sweet, delicious balsamic syrup.  Pour into a small container to cool.

While syrup is cooking, cut cocktail tomatoes in half (the other types will be small enough to leave whole).
Cut bocconcini to desired side, about the same as your tomatoes.

Split the bread as you would a bun, place the cut sides up on a baking sheet, and broil for a few minutes in the oven to toast it (I put it on the 2nd-from-the-top rack).  Brush with a bit of olive oil when you take it out of the oven.  Remove from the pan and allow bread to cool on a rack.  This will help the bread stay crunchy.  Cut pieces of focaccia about 1" / 2.5cm square.
*Note: Do not leave broiling bread unattended to check your Facebook, change laundry, or any other activity, lest you have to down-grade the appetizer/snack into a starchless salad!

Wash basil leaves in cold water and pat dry with paper towel. 

To assemble, thread pieces of bread, cheese, tomato, and basil on the skewer; drizzle with balsamic syrup. 
 Ours looked like this:
The bottom basil leaf escaped from its position around the cheese.  Oops!

Tomato Salad

Since being diagnosed with Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes in 1992, I have usually cooked from recipes with carefully-measured yields and accompanying calculated grams of carbohydrate, fat, protein, etc. Recipes with listed ingredients but no measurements kind of freaked me out! There is now a lot of data online and programs to figure out carbs per serving so that helps a lot with adjusting insulin dosages for meals and snacks. I'm learning to experiment a bit more with recipes so I hope you will measure with your eyes and tastebuds until it looks and taste great to you.

  • Cocktail or whole tomatoes, variety of colors
  • Fresh mozzarella (optional)
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Olive oil  (I like regular vs. the green extra-virgin for this)
  • Balsamic vinegar (optional)
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper


Cut tomatoes into 1" / 2.5cm chunks and mozzarella into preferred size; place in medium-sized bowl.

Chiffonade (shiff-fuh-NOD) the basil.  (You can also do this to other flat leafy herbs like mint.) 

               Stack the leaves.                   Roll tightly, forming a cylinder.             Slice off little ribbons using
                                                                                                                             a sharp knife.   

Add basil to tomatoes & cheese; gently mix.

Drizzle with some olive oil; perhaps start with a tablespoon / 15mL so it's not too greasy.  (You can add more to taste after all ingredients are added and you've tried it.) 

Drizzle about a half-tablespoon / 7.5mL of balsamic vinegar. 

Sprinkle with a teaspoon / 5mL of salt and grind pepper over the top. 

Stir gently, taste, and add more of any of the last four ingredients you think would make it more delicious!

I would've added more red tomatoes but a certain teenaged boy had enjoyed them...  But, hey, who could blame him?  He has good taste.

Caprese Pizza

This was the first recipe in which I used bocconcini.  My family weren't sure what to think of the new cheese but they gobbled up the pizza. 

When I had to Google the recipe the other day from the grocery store, I found a new website called Tastebook.  It has a deal with Random House, the largest publisher of cookbooks, so I hope all of the copyright issues are covered! 

Here is the recipe; we found the original version, pictured here, a bit greasy, so now we just sprinkle the chiffonaded basil on top of the pizza at the end instead of mixing it with oil and brushing that mixture on.

Caprese Platter

Lastly, I put together a tray of many of the aforementioned ingredients with which to make open-faced sandwiches.  There is balsamic syrup in the silver dipping bowl.

Whew, that was a long post!  It took me a few days.  I promise not all will be so long!

I hope you were inspired to play with some variations on tomatoes and bocconcini from the island.





  1. Hello, Jennifer--

    Great blog so far! One of my best friends lives in your town and directed me here. I can't wait to follow along with your kitchen adventures!

    Good luck! Sara, in California

  2. Thank you, Sara - I appreciate your feedback! I hope it continues to interest you. :-)


Drop me a line - comments, questions, and your own ideas are all very welcome! :-)