Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mozzarella di Bufala with Prosciutto and Wild Arugula

Mozzarella di Bufala is one of my favourite foods. Thickly sliced as Insalata Caprese with heirloom tomatoes and basil, grilled over a homemade Margherita Pizza, stacked high with Roasted Peppers and Eggplant, pan fried as an oozingly delicious Grilled Cheese Sandwich, or simply with Prosciutto and Wild Arugula, Buffalo Mozzarella is rich, supple and delicious any way it's served.

Margherita Pizza with Mozzarella di Bufala, tomato sauce and fresh basil

Buffalo mozzarella is made from domesticated water buffalo milk, and falls into the pasta filata cheese style, which is also known as stretched or pulled curd cheese. The curd is immersed in hot water or whey and then stretched and kneaded until the desired soft, stringy texture is reached. It’s then cut and portioned into different size balls (bocconcini) or other shapes such as knots or braids (treccia). Mozzarella Fior di Latte, is very similar, but is made with cow's milk instead of buffalo. Both cheeses are porcelain white, have a very thin rind and a wonderfully delicate flavour. Until recently, Torontonians had to rely on mozzarella di bufala from Italy, but the problem is that buffalo mozzarella is a time sensitive cheese. Generally the fresher the better. So having a reliable mozzarella vendor in the area is key, and now we do, Bella Casara, who make fresh Ontario buffalo milk mozzarella! 

Ravi, the water buffalo, at the Littkeman-Smith dairy farm

Set amid the rolling hills just north of Stirling, Ontario, in Hastings County, is Martin Littkeman and Lori Smith's 350-acre dairy farm (The Ontario Water Buffalo Co.) where they raise water buffalos in natural pastures, and then send the herd's rich white milk daily, to Quality Cheese — a second generation cheesemaker in Vaughn. Sold under the Bella Casara brand, they also buy from Koskamp Family Farms near Stratford, who started Ontario's first herd in 2007 and just started selling meat at White House Meats in the St. Lawrence Market. Tony Cohan, resident chef and head of product development for Quality Cheese, works with restaurants such as Pizzeria Libretto, Terroni and Buca to get it on menus, but you can also get it at Wholefoods, Pusateri's, Olympic Cheese and Scheffler's in the St Lawrence Market — they also carry Bella Casara Burrata!  

So for buffalo mozzarella enthusiasts, the horizon is looking brighter and fluffier, with herds of water buffalo grazing on Ontario's green pastures, ensuring that we enjoy the freshest possible bocconcini. If you'd like to visit Martin and Lori's dairy farm, it's open to visitors by appointment: (613) 395-1342. They're located on Highway 14, just north of Stirling. And, if you are anywhere near Stirling Saturday, August 27, be sure to make the trip to town for the Water Buffalo Food Festival being held there from 11:00am to 4pm. I know I'll be there!

Mozzarella di Bufala with Prosciutto and Wild Arugula
Serves 2

2 balls of Mozzarella di Bufala
6 thin slices of Prosciutto di Parma
2 cups wild arugula
a few drops of Balsamic Syrup (I use Acetaia Dodi)
1 tbsp olive oil

Place a handful of wild arugula on 2 serving plates, and top each with a ball of mozzarella di bufala. Lay 3 slices of prosciutto over each mozzarella, then finish with a drizzle of olive over the arugula, and a sprinkle of balsamic syrup around the plate. Buon appetito!

Roasted Eggplant, Pepper & Buffalo Mozzarella Stacks 
With Pesto And Balsamic Syrup
Serves 2

1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 small eggplant cut into 6 slices, about 1cm thick
2 tbsp olive oil
Maldon salt and black pepper
1 ball of buffalo mozzarella, cut into 4 discs
8 basil leaves
2 tbsp fresh pesto
a few drops of Balsamic Syrup

Heat the oven to 350°F. Place the peppers in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the skin has slightly blackened and they have become softened

Heat a griddle pan until it begins to smoke. Toss the aubergines in a bowl with the olive oil and a little salt. Lay the aubergines on the griddle pan and grill for 2-3 mins on each side or until they have become golden and slightly charred. Set aside to drain on some kitchen paper. (I sometimes cheat and use jarred red peppers!). Remove the peppers from the oven and leave to stand for 10 mins. Cut them in half from stem to tip and remove the pips and skin. You will have 4 pieces of pepper, two in each colour. 

On a baking tray, lay a slice of aubergine, then a slice of basil, then a slice of buffalo mozzarella, a leaf of basil, then a slice of each of the peppers, seasoning with salt and pepper in between each slice, and repeat. This will make one stack. Do the same with the remaining ingredients to make the second stack, and top both with the remaining aubergine. Drizzle with olive oil.

Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes. To serve, lay each stack on a dinner plate and finish with a drizzle of pesto and Balsamic Syrup around the plate and serve. This makes a lovely light summer lunch with some warm baguette or focaccia.

Grilled Buffalo Mozzarella Cheese Sandwich
Serves 2

1 lb buffalo mozzarella, cut into 4 equal pieces about 3" x 4"
8 1/2-inch thick firm white sandwich bread
2 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp coarse salt
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter

Place the mozzarella on 4 slices of the bread. Cover with the remaining slices to form sandwiches. Trim the crusts off to make perfect 4-inch squares.

In a wide shallow bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the cream, thyme leaves, salt, and nutmeg. Whisk until well blended.

In a 10 to 12-inch nonstick saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and cook until the sizzling subsides. Dip 2 of the sandwiches into the egg mixture, turning to coat, place in the pan, and cook until golden brown on the first side, about 2 minutes. Flip over and brown on the other side. 

Transfer the sandwiches to individual plates and repeat the process with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon butter, and 2 sandwiches. Cut in half, or as finger sandwiches, and serve immediately with a side dish of tapenade or fresh pesto for dipping!