Roasted Tomato Caprese Served Warm

by Kelly on August 21, 2009   

The heat of the tomatoes softens the fresh mozzarella

The heat of the tomatoes softens the fresh mozzarella

Last Monday night was an all-round great evening. The subject, from 5:30 until 10:30, was food. Very, very good food. We started the evening at Nancy Silverton/Mario Batali’s Pizzeria Mozza, and since there were 7 of us we tasted 7 different pizzas. And yes, the fuss is accurate and deserved — the pizza is deeply good. Then we saw Julie & Julia at the Arclight Cinema in Hollywood, and both the movie and the theater itself were also deeply good (especially all things Meryl Streep). You reserve in advance at the Arclight, are seated by an usher, and very kindly admonished by the same usher to silence cell phones and mouths during the movie. Ahhhh. I may be spoiled forever for pizza and movie theaters.

But back to Pizzeria Mozza. We started the meal with a different take on a standby, caprese, which I resisted because I make it at home with some regularity. And now that my home-grown tomatoes are ripe and I’ve found some amazing mozzarella at the creaky (I mean really creaky) little Italian store down the hill, I was trying to hold it off. But caprese fans will out, and the thing was ordered.

I got a tiny bite of it but it was delicious. The hot roasted tomatoes plopped right onto the mozzarella begin to soften the cheese but leave behind its slight tang. The basil, instead of chopped and sprinkled on top, was pureed with olive oil and drizzled over the mozzarella, making it even easier to mop up the goods with some bread. And that is one of the great pleasures of the last bites of caprese: the mozzarella gives off a little briny “milk,” which mixes with the oil which mixes with the tomato which you try to dab up with a hint of basil. Here it’s making its own soup for you.

This is my take on Mozza’s caprese — and a new way to visit an old friend. Look for the freshest mozzarella you can find, and some really good bread to go with it. After all, Nancy Silverton is the woman behind all that bread at La Brea Bakery. And some of us need something good to go with our bread.

Little cherries and pears were what looked freshest that day -- my own pears had been finished off

Little cherries and pears were what looked freshest that day -- my own pears had been finished off

Roasted Tomato Caprese Served Warm | 6 hearty servings

1 pound little tomatoes, such as cherry, pear, little heirloom, mixed varieties
Olive oil
Sea salt
25 to 30 basil leaves, about 5 large sprigs
3 tablespoons olive oil
Small pinch salt
Small pinch sugar
Small squeeze of lemon
1 pound fresh mozzarella
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 275°F. Wash the tomatoes and dry thoroughly. Place them on a large baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Rub the oil over the tomatoes and sprinkle with sea salt.

I like to use a foil sheet so there's no clean-up, but I throw it in the recycling bin -- parchment would work, too

I like to use a foil sheet so there's no clean-up, but I throw it in the recycling bin -- parchment would work, too

While the tomatoes are roasting, lightly rinse the basil and shake it dry. Chop coarsely.

There is some argument that rinsing the basil washes away some of the oils that flavor it, but mine is from my garden and has to be washed

There is some argument that rinsing the basil washes away some of the oils that flavor it, but mine is from my garden and has to be washed

You'll end up with a heaping half cup of chopped basil

You'll end up with a heaping half cup of chopped basil

If you have an immersion blender or a mini food processor, put the chopped basil along with the oil, salt, sugar, and lemon in the cylinder or bowl and puree until fine.

Here's my immersion blender, but it's not essential

Here's my immersion blender, but it's not essential

The little squeeze of lemon will help keep the basil leaves bright

The little squeeze of lemon will help keep the basil leaves bright

A cross between basil "sauce" and pesto

A cross between basil "sauce" and pesto

A regular-sized blender or food processor is too big for this job, so if you don’t have a little machine, simply chop the basil until its very fine and mix it with the salt, sugar and lemon.

Slice the mozzarella into rounds and arrange on a plate.

My creaky Italian market was closed (see how creaky?), so this mozzarella came from Whole Foods

My creaky Italian market was closed (see how creaky?), so this mozzarella came from Whole Foods

Drizzle with the pureed basil, top with hot tomatoes, and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.

And pass the bread, please.

Kelly McCune © 2009
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Twitted by kitchenelly
August 27, 2009 at 9:34 am

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Jaden August 22, 2009 at 10:54 am

Welcome to SummerFest!! Love that you roasted the tomatoes to get a sweet, dark and umami-rich flavor!

Kelly August 22, 2009 at 11:54 am

Thanks, Jaden! It’s true, the little tomatoes pack a huge flavor punch, especially with a little crunchy salt to kick up the minty basil taste.

Cathy August 26, 2009 at 9:40 pm

Made this for dinner and it was so good. Had to fight Steve for the last bite. Looking forward to making the chocolate chip cookies.

Kelly June 1, 2012 at 10:15 am

If you can find burrata, a mozzarella encasing delicious cream, the dish becomes even more decadent and, well, slurpy.

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