Monday, May 5, 2008

From mozzarella to warm fiordilatte….la caprese calda di tidbit

Fresh mozzarella made from the milk of water buffalo (mozzarella di bufala) is one of the greatest delicacies in Campania cuisine. Origins of this exquisite cheese are somewhat obscure, but it is known that water buffalo were introduced into Italy from Asia in the seventh century and that most of the production occurs in the region of Campania, particularly around Caserta, Salerno and Benevento.

Unless they have traveled to Campania, Americans are not likely to have experienced the extraordinary qualities of mozzarella di bufala. A similar product made from cows’milk is known as fiordilatte and is very popular in Italy outside the region of Campania. In the U.S., fiordilatte is commonly available, whereas one can find imported mozzarella di bufala only in specialty stores, vacuum-sealed to extend its very short life span. Campanians will tell you that mozzarella di bufala sealed in plastic or kept around for more than a couple of days does not measure up; Campanians wouldn’t eat it. Being born and raised in the land of mozzarella, I agree that vacuum-sealing mozzarella is a shame: mozzarella need to be eaten fresh and not after a week of trips and tribulations! And don’t even start me with the topic of being sustainable!

However, in Seattle we can find some decent fiordilatte that is good mostly for cooking. That is why we came up with our Caprese Calda instead of the classic insalata caprese. In the classic insalata caprese, the fresh mozzarella di bufala is paired with ripe tomatoes and sweet basil and dressed with extra-virgin olive oil (no balsamic vinegar or lemon, as many recipes suggest!). At tidbit, for the Caprese Calda, we prefer using local fiordilatte that we warm up before adding ripe tomato and basil. Then we dress it with olive oil and top it with some shaved parmesan.
[okay, I know that this picture does not give justice but I am not a photographer!]

Our Caprese cannot be like one you have in Capri, we are aware of that….but we can still deliver a good Italian dish using local ingredients.

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