We had quite the blizzard here in Calgary last night. The roads were already jammed with shoppers searching for Black Friday deals (although admittedly it isn’t as big a deal here in Canada as it is in the States), but add to that several inches of fresh white powder and some incredibly cold (meaning -30C) temperatures, and you start to understand why I want to hibernate at home this weekend.
I actually love the snow and the cold as long as I don’t have to drive in it, especially in the weeks leading up to Christmas. There’s nothing I love more than watching the snow fall outside while I’m safely at home baking cookies and watching Love Actually for the thousandth time, bundled up in pyjamas and warm socks.
Enough about the weather – are we running out of things to talk about? Yeesh – and onto today’s recipe. Although the current frigid temperatures make me long for something hot and gooey, I am still perfectly happy to snack on this this simple but impressive room-temperature appetizer. A ball of fresh mozzarella is marinated with chopped fresh herbs, your best extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes, and served with warm, crispy crostini and sweet sun-dried tomatoes.
You really must use the best quality ingredients you can get your hands on for this to live up to its potential. Since there are so few ingredients and nothing is cooked, you can really taste the difference if you use sub-par components. That means no rubbery “pizza mozzarella” and (please) no dried herbs! If you’re having trouble finding good fresh mozzarella, you can easily swap in a log of goat cheese. For my herbs, I used a combination of flat-leaf parsley, tarragon and basil. Feel free to switch up the combination, or you can even just use one type of herb; basil would be my choice. Oregano and mint would add interesting flavours as well.
You can use either oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes or the kind that are completely dried out. In the latter case, I would mix a bit of the herb oil mixture in with the dried tomatoes and let them sit and soak it up for an hour or two. I used a vacuum-sealed bag of Sicilian sun-dried tomatoes that we brought back from our recent trip to Italy: they were incredibly sweet, chewy, and wonderful.
I love this recipe because it takes no time at all to prepare, it looks beautifully impressive, and the colours are festive enough that it could easily grace any holiday appetizer or buffet table. It’s great for a crowd, but if (like me) you’re tempted to make it for two people, be careful because before you know it, you may have consumed half a ball of mozzarella cheese in one sitting. Whoops.
- 1 baguette, sliced into ¼" slices
- Olive oil
- Salt & pepper
- 1 ball fresh mozzarella (bufala/buffalo if you can find it)
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup chopped fresh herbs (parsley, tarragon, basil)
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- Salt & pepper (to taste)
- Sun dried tomatoes, for serving (optional)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place the baguette slices in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Brush or drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Bake in oven 5 minutes, then flip the bread pieces over and return to oven for 5 more minutes, or until the slices are crispy and beginning to turn golden brown. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine olive oil, fresh herbs, red pepper flakes, and salt & pepper. Place mozzarella in a small serving dish and spoon oil mixture over top. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Serve with crostini and sun-dried tomatoes.
- Note: Can be made ahead and left in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours (any longer and the herbs will start to lose their colour). Bring to room temperature before serving.