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Marinated Mozzarella

Last week Chicago experienced record heat. It is certainly the hottest I remember this city which is more famous for its extreme cold than sweltering temperatures. In the middle of the heatwave, my oven broke. I know, I should not be using my oven in a heatwave—but the 4th of July requires cake [1]! I managed to get the cake baked, but it wasn’t easy. All I could think about was heat—both a lack of it, and an overabundance.

Things are looking up, the heatwave finally broke and we bought a new range this weekend. By the end of this week I will be back in business.

As relatively inexperienced homeowners, shopping for a major appliance was a new adventure. We managed to find a range that fit our needs and budget without much difficulty. It will be an improvement on what I had been working with, which was the cheapest of the cheap, and I am excited to get cooking again.

I made the mistake of wandering into the high-end kitchen showroom at the mega-appliance store where we were shopping. There were some seriously amazing kitchen appliances available that made our little range seem sort of pathetic. I learned it is best not to look at that section of the store, until I have 10k to spend on an oven.

Also in the middle of the heatwave, two of our dearest friends arrived to celebrate the 4th of July and spend some time in Chicago (they didn’t know what they were in for!). We all survived our annual patriotic parade and barbeque, but just barely. It was so hot that some of the marching bands were wearing shorts and t-shirts, which felt a bit like seeing the queen in a bathing suit. At one point during the parade an elderly man, riding a miniature motorcycle which was part of a Shriners contingent, stared yelling at the crowd: for god’s sake get out of the sun! get out of the sun before you all burn up!!

The heat was getting to everyone.

We decided to forgo another outdoor meal and invited our friends over for an air conditioned dinner on Saturday night. I didn’t want to use any heat (and couldn’t have, if I wanted to), so I turned to recipes that could be prepared without cooking. This marinated mozzarella from Plenty seemed to fit the bill. It could not be simpler, or more delicious. But I implore you to only make this when you have the best ingredients. I know I say that, and I know sometimes you ignore me—don’t. You want really fresh buffalo mozzarella, great olive oil, and some perfect summer tomatoes. If you can’t get those right now, bookmark this for when you can. It is worth the wait.

Marinated Mozzarella (adapted from Plenty [2] by Yotam Ottolenghi)

Make the marinade by combining the fennel seeds, zest, basil, oregano, garlic and olive oil in a medium bowl.

Break the mozzarella into large chunks with your hands and add it the bowl with the marinade. Smear the mozzarella with the marinade until well coated. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes in the fridge.

Serve by arranging mozzarella on a large serving platter, along with marinade. Scatter tomatoes across the platter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve with crusty bread.