'Tis the season for tomatoes, and if you're like most of us, a tomato salad can go a long way. And with those tomatoes, you must include some mozz.
But there's one easy tip to make your mozzarella truly sing in that salad.
Rip, don't slice, your mozzarella.
Cheese is made up of protein chains that trap coagulated fat. (That's what curds are, really.) The absolute best way to preserve a cheese's integrity is actually to allow those chains to come apart organically by letting the cheese break into pieces on its own natural fault lines. It's for this reason that harder cheeses like aged cheddars, goudas, and Parmigiano Reggiano are so often served with a parm knife; the chunks that fall off from hacking away are pieces that show the natural breaking points in a wedge of cheese, and there's something about these rustic, irregularly-shaped chunks of cheese that just taste better than slices. It's a textural thing.
But this isn't only the case for hard cheeses. Ripping, rather than slicing, a cheese like mozzarella allows for the natural stringy-ness to shine, especially in a salad. The cheese can more easily soak up what you've dressed your salad with, even if you keep it simple, as I do, with only olive oil and salt. And the mouthfeel of a piece of ripped mozzarella is just plain nicer, rather than a thick slice, which requires a bit more chewing.
There's something more rustic and natural about mozzarella in this form, too. It's less constructed and restaurant-y, more picnic-y and homey. And there's nothing wrong with that.
Nora Singley is an avid lover of cheese, and used to be a cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City, where she continues to teach cheese classes for the public. She is currently an Assistant TV Chef and food stylist on The Martha Stewart Show.
(Images: BBC Good Food; Nora Singley)