Southern Italy has had a great influence on the population of the South Shore of Long Island. That means there are a number of stores here which make their own mozzarella. It is heavenly stuff; soft, milky, barely salted, and, if you get to Fairway, AS Pork Store or Uncle Giuseppe’s at the right time, it will still be warm.
No, it isn’t mozzarella di bufalá, the rich Italian water buffalo cheese that makes insalata caprese that much more delicious, but which is only available imported (that I know of). This is strictly cow’s milk – but what it lacks in texture and complexity, it makes up for in freshness and simple comfort.
And, you can always dress it up. Small mozzarella balls in their liquid can be purchased and made more interesting in a flash when drained and dolloped with your preferred pesto. Or you can try something a bit more adventurous and a lot more impressive (but still easy as all get-out).
Pay an extra dollar or much more a pound for pre-marinated ciliegi or try this! My version is fast and easy and has a lot going on, certainly worth the extra five minutes it takes to prep. It also looks quite beautiful. Summer buffets really light up with bright and colorful presentation ( I mean, I love potato salad, macaroni salad and cole slaw, but the range of colors often leaves a lot to be desired!)
If you can only find prepackaged mozzarella balls, use them! No sense denying yourself these great flavors just because you can’t get the fresh stuff. It will be fun and beautiful just the same!
Marinated Mozzarella Balls (spicy)
1 lb fresh mini-mozzarella balls, drained (about 2 cups). Sometimes called ciliegi meaning “cherry”
¼ Cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs finely chopped sundried tomatoes in oil, drained a bit
1 Tbs each fresh parsley, oregano, basil (or your choice of Italian herbs)
1/2 cup grape/cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1/8 tsp hot red pepper flakes (if desired)
1 Tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice
Salt to taste (only if mozzarella balls are unsalted)
In a bowl, add olive oil to mozzarella balls and stir to coat. Add all other ingredients and mix thoroughly. Marinate, covered, at room temperature for at least one hour before serving. I find that the texture of the fresh mozzarella toughens over time, so for softest texture, don’t prepare more than two hours ahead. It still makes good leftovers though!