Summertime is all about easy entertaining and easier food: bountiful produce allows us to spend less time fussing in the kitchen and more time al fresco with friends. I'm all about quick recipes that produce big flavor, and these marinated mozzarella balls do just that. The best part? They get better the longer they sit, so make a triple batch and you'll always be ready for unannounced guests that come your way.
Italians perfected the art of eating centuries ago, and one of many things they've mastered is the way to start a party. Antipasti — which means "before the meal" — are small bites meant to whet the appetite and prepare you for the upcoming feast. An antipasti platter can be composed of almost anything, but cured meats, cheeses, vegetables, and preserved pantry goods are the traditional place to start.
Antipasti, or any summer appetizer for that matter, can and should be as low maintenance as you desire. These "little mouthfuls" of mozzarella are marinated in a zesty bath of garlic, herbs, and olive oil. They are impressive enough to serve alone, but are right at home in a more expansive spread. Even better, they require minimal prep and can be adapted to whatever ingredients you already have on hand.
Don't just keep this versatile recipe locked up at home. Transfer the tasty bites into cute jars to offer as hostess gifts, or pack them along on your next beach picnic. They'll taste good anywhere you choose to eat them — even better with a bottle of chilled rosé!
Garlic and Herb Marinated Mozzarella Bites
Serves 6 to 8
good-quality olive oil
5 to 6
garlic cloves, thinly sliced
chopped fresh herbs (i.e. basil, thyme, oregano, and/or parsley)
black or rainbow peppercorns
1 to 2
Peel from half a lemon, thinly sliced
Splash of sherry, red wine, or balsamic vinegar
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Kosher salt, to taste
(16 ounces) bocconcini or ciliegine, drained (See Recipe Notes)
Heat olive oil and garlic in a small sauce pan over medium low heat until bubbling gently. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Stir in herbs, peppercorns, lemon slices, and bay leaf. Add vinegar, red pepper flakes, and salt to taste. Pour the mixture over the bocconcini and transfer to an airtight container. Refrigerate and allow to marinate overnight or up to two weeks. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Enjoy the marinated bocconcini on their own or as part of an antipasto platter with cured meats, marinated artichokes, roasted pepper, olives, and/or crusty bread.
Bocconcini (and ciliegine) are 1- to 2-inch balls of fresh mozzarella packed in water. They can be found in gourmet cheese section of well-stocked grocery stores. Feel free to substitute feta or goat cheese if desired.
(Images: Nealey Dozier)