Saturday, October 29, 2011

nick of time

Deborah brings in the harvest...
Snow hit my garden early this year.

It is a game of chicken as the first frost looms over the garden. How long can I leave the last of the basil leaves and the few cherry tomatoes lingering on the vine before that heartless first frost abruptly claims all? I knew my days were numbered, but it always pains me to cut down the plants, a real summer finale, when I might possibly get one or two more days out of them.

This week I catered an evening event for the non-profit environmental news site Grist . The guest of honor was author Jonathan Franzen reading from his most recent novel, Freedom. The reading was followed by a lively interview of the writer conducted by the savvy and engaging Katherine Schultz, author of her own new book Being Wrong: Adventures in the margin of error.
Basil leaves "sous la neige"
Jonathan Franzen reads from his novel Freedom.
I wanted to use the last of the best from the summer growing season, so I managed to steel myself to the task of harvesting all of my variegated opal basil with the purpose of showcasing it in an hor d'oeuvre for the Grist party.
I decided to marinate bite-sized cubes of smoked mozzarella cheese in an olive oil I had infused with orange zest and red pepper flakes. The cheese is then rolled in toasted breadcrumbs, briefly warmed in the oven to get a little warm and oozy, then served on skewers wedged between cherry tomato halves and feathery basil leaves.

Fresh and light with a nod towards Spanish tapas, this simple hors d'oeuvre is perfect with wine and easy to nibble while listening, perhaps, to your favorite author talk about sex and birds.
The lovely Rachel kept the food moving.

Marinated Smoked Mozzarella Skewers
•cut a pound of smoked mozzarella into bite sized cubes

•mix 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 Tbs. red pepper flakes and the zest of two oranges together in a small bowl and stir to combine.

•pour the olive oil mixture over the cubed mozzarella and let it marinate for at least one hour or refrigerated overnight.

•in a small, dry saute pan toast on medium heat one cup of panko breadcrumbs, stirring continuously until the breadcrumbs turn golden brown

•heat the oven to 350 degrees

•one by one, remove the mozzarella cubes form the olive oil marinade and roll each piece in the breadcrumbs to cover all sides.

• lay the coated cheese in a single layer on a baking sheet and put in the hot oven for two minutes, until the cheese begins to soften but does not melt.

•Cut 30 cherry tomatoes (red or yellow or a combination of the two) in half across the middle so you have a top half and a bottom half, and lightly salt them.

•remove the smallest basil leaves from their stems and set aside

To Assemble:
• On a small skewer thread a cherry tomato half bottom, a softened cheese cube, a few small basil leaves and then the top of the cherry tomato. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients. Serve immediately.

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