Monday, June 6, 2011

Hello Summer! Mini Caprese Skewers

A word about summer entertaining: Why would you complicate your life in this triple digit heat index weather with complicated food when having company over? You wouldn't. My mother in law taught me a long time ago that most people are just happy to be together--they don't need fancy meals or pristine homes. They want to feel wanted and any effort most always goes appreciated. It took me YEARS to get this. And I thank her from the bottom of my heart as Eastern European entertaining seems to be a bit more complicated--even mom these days has given way to making her life a bit easier. These 'warehouse clubs' have impacted our lives for the better.

Hence, these summer days, we have been known shove all our messes in closets or drawers, buy Costco salmon burgers to throw on the grill, serve chips as a side, make one signature fun drink, and accept our guests' offers to bring a dessert or salad. Amazingly enough, my stress level has plummeted and everyone is relaxed and happy (except for the next day when I have to pull out the messes from the closets-what to do with all the ironing and mail?!).

This is one of the reasons I grow basil in the summer....caprese salads, caprese pizzas, caprese sandwiches, caprese bruschetta, caprese, it makes my husband fall in love with me all over again (yes, it's that easy when it comes to 'caprese' things). Below is a caprese sandwich we ate on the Amalfi Coast of Italy a few years ago (Positano):

So as my neighbor, Patsy, says: I've said all that to say.....that this is an amazing and easy, non-recipe recipe to remember for when you want to have people over. We made these babies for a friend's bridal shower over a year ago and it was a hit. Most of you have tried them, but it doesn't hurt to be reminded. It's a lot easier to eat things on 'sticks' when you're walking around--no need to carry those forks for this favorite salad of many. And YES, you can still make it with regular mozzarella if you can't find buffalo (fresh) mozzarella or want to save a little cash. No one will say no! It's the Italian flag!


What you will need:

  • Grape or cherry tomatoes
  • Fresh buffalo mozzarella, cubed (OR regular mozzarella, cubed)
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Toothpicks
  • OPTIONAL: Extra virgin olive oil, balsamic or red wine vinegar, and salt & pepper--OR Italian dressing
Thread or pierce one of each tomato, mozzarella cube, and basil leaf. I prefer to use smaller tomatoes (like the 'grape' variety) so that we don't have explosive red messes on people's clothes when entertaining. But if you have cherry tomatoes, you can always halve them too. Fold the basil leaves before threading if they are too large. The key is to try and cut the cheese about the same size as the tomato that it the skewer is easier to eat.

ONLY if you wish, drizzle with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Keep in mind that this may make them a little messier if people are eating while standing or walking around. (Some people like to serve these with pesto sauce, but I find that the basil flavor can be too overpowering).

For bigger skewers, use mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes. Make them REALLY big skewers (more of a caprese salad skewer) with bamboo sticks.

You can also cut the tomatoes in half and thread one half first and one half last (after the cheese and basil) to make little 'sandwiches' like we did for a bridal shower last year--our friend, Kate, enjoyed them ;). Group the skewers together (as it seems much more impressive looking-ha!)--here is what I mean:
LASTLY (how do I have this much to say over something so ridiculously simple? LOVE), you can make these little skewers with variations:
  • Use strawberries instead of tomatoes (or blackberries)
  • Use smoked mozzarella or provolone
  • Thread on a cube of toasted bread for a panzanella skewer (panzanella is Italian bread salad)
  • Thread on a roasted or grilled mushroom
  • Thread on a cube of grilled chicken
  • Try a strawberry, mint, cheese skewer
  • Thread on some tortellini instead or with the cheese

The possibilities are pretty plentiful.....have fun--this idea is pure genius and obviously not mine!

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