Caprese Bites

 

By Corinne

This is one of my favourite apps in the summer when basil is readily available, but if you can find fresh basil and some good looking cherry tomatoes in the winter it makes a pretty, seasonal coloured appetizer for a Christmas party.

Mini San Marzano tomatoes are my favourite variety of cherry tomato. If you happen to come across them, you must buy them. They are SO full of incredible, rich tomato flavour, much like their namesake, the San Marzano tomato.

You can generally find balsamic reduction in most grocery stores these days. I actually didn’t use a reduction for the photo, as I happen to have a good quality balsamic that is fairly thick, though not quite as viscous as a proper balsamic reduction, but it did the trick.

Bocconcini is a mild unripened mozzarella cheese. They come in a variety of sizes, and sometimes you can find them in slices as well. For this recipe, use the mini ones so they don’t overwhelm the tomatoes.

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Time: 10 min

Makes: 20-22

You will need:

  • about 20-22 mini bocconcini  (this is usually about how many come in the container)
  • 10-11 cherry tomatoes, preferably mini San Marzano’s if you can find them
  • fresh basil, about 15-20 leaves
  • balsamic reduction
  • fresh ground pepper
  • toothpicks -make sure you use plain and not mint or cinnamon!

Drain mini bocconcini and pat dry with a paper towel. Cut cherry tomatoes in half. If your basil leaves are particularly large, you can halve those as well.

Assemble your caprese bites! Slide one bocconcini onto the toothpick, follow with a leaf of basil, folded in half if desired, and then slide the halved cherry tomato on last, cut side down so they will sit nicely on a plate. Alternatively, if your basil leaves are quite large, halve them lengthwise, halve the bocconcini and wrap the basil leaf around them.

Drizzle with balsamic reduction and a grind of fresh pepper to finish.

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Bocconcini Stuffed Meatballs with “Zoodles”

By Corinne

I feel somehow like cheesy stuffed meatballs get a pass here, since you’re not using “real” noodles, I mean really, it’s at least a serving of vegetables, right?

This is a wonderful summer meal. I love making a double batch of the meatballs and freezing them before they are cooked for a quick meal on another night.

You can of course use regular noodles rather than the zucchini ones, but I do really like them in this.

Serves: 4

Time: 30 min-1 hour -> depending on if you make your own sauce or not 🙂

Oven: 400F

You will need:

For meatballs:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 medium italian sausages (bump it up to hot if you like the heat!)
  • 20 bocconcini cheese balls 🙂

For the sauce – I always use my favourite drunken red sauce, but feel free to use your favourite marinara.

For the sauce:

  • 1 large onion diced
  • 1-2 stalks of celery diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 thai chili pepper – or other small hot pepper, finely minced
  • 1/2 a bottle of red wine – I like to use a cabernet sauvignon
  • 1 can of diced or whole tomatoes *you will be blending them up, so it doesn’t really matter
  • 2-3 tbsp of tomato paste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pat of butter for sautéing the vegetables

For the noodles:

  • 4 medium/largish  zucchini- spiralized
  • 1tsp salt
  • or your favourite pasta noodles 🙂

Make your favourite red sauce or follow these instructions for mine 🙂

Sauce

Add onion, celery and pat of butter to a thick bottomed pan you are making your sauce in. Cook onion and celery on medium low for at least 10-15 min. If you have the time to let your onion caramelize rather than just soften, it will only make your sauce better.

Add garlic and chili pepper to the onion and celery just before you add the wine. Give them a good stir around, but don’t let the garlic brown. Add a little bit less than half a bottle of the delicious wine you are using for this recipe. If you really feel like the need to measure here, that should be about 1 1/4 cup of wine, but I’ve never actually measured. You end up using half a 750mL bottle of wine. If you add all the wine here and then reduce, that totally works.  I usually reserve about 1/4 cup to add to the sauce later.  Let this bubble away for a while until it is reduced by a bit more than half. Add the can of tomatoes. Let this simmer away for 20 minutes, or as long as you like if you’ve got all day (in which case you will need to add some extra liquid to replace that lost in a long simmer).

Use an immersion blender to smooth out your sauce. Add remaining 1/4 cup of red wine (if you managed to reserve it) and 2-3 tbsp of tomato paste.

Meatballs

For meatballs, mix together ground beef and sausage. If you are using a good flavourful sausage, no other seasoning will be needed. Roll a smallish golf ball sized ball, then push an indent into it with the bocconcini, pull the meat around the cheese, give it a good roll and move on to the next one.

When you are finished rolling your meatballs, pop them in the 400F oven for about 25 minutes. Depending on the colour/seasoning of the sausage used, they may still look ‘pink’ but remember there’s really not that much meat wrapped around the ball of cheese!

Noodles

Spiralize your noodles (or prepare your favourite pasta). It will look like far more than you can possibly need, but they will shrink! Put zucchini in a colander and sprinkle with 1 tsp salt, mixing noodles around to distribute salt. Let them sit for 10-15 min. They will let out quite a lot of moisture in this time.

Just before your meatballs are finished, pop the zucchini in a bowl and then into the microwave. This time will depend on your microwave a bit- in mine (the smallest, cheapest microwave I could buy!) it takes about 5-6 minutes, but in my friend’s super power microwave it only takes about 2.5 min. You really just need them hot, don’t overcook them or they will lose their noodle like texture and turn to mush.

Plate noodles and top with sauce and a few meatballs.

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