Little fried mozzarella balls
Bocconcini, which translated means small mouthfuls, are bite-size balls of fresh mozzarella di bufala (buffalo milk cheese). Or they can be fresh mozzarella made from cow’s milk and referred to as fior di latte, meaning the flower of the milk. In Campania, the making of fresh mozzarella is a true art and the finished product so delicate that something is lost in taste if it is not consumed (da giornata) the day it is made. These little gems of cheese ooze buttery goodness, are soft and creamy, and have a slightly tangy taste. With a hunk of country bread, they make an unforgettable lunch. And good as they are on their own, sometimes I
like to present them in new ways. They are wonderful marinated in olive oil with fresh thyme, basil, and parsley and served with crusty bread for an antipasto or light lunch. They are absolutely addictive when coated in egg and bread crumbs, fried to a golden brown, and served hot on a puddle of tomato sauce.
Portions: Serves 6 as an antipasto
- 4 large eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2½ to 3 cups Panko bread crumbs
- 2 pounds bocconcini, drained
- Sunflower oil for frying
- 12 whole basil leaves
- 2 cups prepared tomato sauce, warmed
Beat the eggs with a fork in a shallow bowl and set aside. Combine thes alt and flour in another bowl and set aside. Pour the bread crumbs into a third bowl. Dry off the bocconcini with paper towels and coat them in flour, then in the beaten egg, and finally in the bread crumbs. Place them on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Heat 4 cups of oil to 375°F in a deep fryer or heavy-bottomed, deep pot. Add the bocconcini a few at a time and fry until golden. Drain them on paper towels and keep warm until all the pieces are fried. Add the basil leaves to the oil and fry about 1 minute; drain on paper towels. Spoon about ¹⁄3 cup of the tomato sauce in the middle of 6 individual salad plates. Place 3 to 4 balls on top of the sauce; add a couple of fried basil leaves for garnish and serve. Or place the bocconcini on a platter, scoop the tomato sauce into a serving bowl, and let everyone
help themselves. Jars of marinated bocconcini make a great hostess gift. Add some long strips of lemon peel and a tablespoon of black whole peppercorns to the jar.