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! 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 by Yotam Ottolenghi)

  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 15 basil leaves, shredded
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 teaspoons best-quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound buffalo mozzarella
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges (or a handful of cherry tomatoes)
  • Maldon sea salt and black pepper for finishing

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.


32 comments to “Marinated Mozzarella”

  1. This looks wonderful, especially when you don’t want to/can’t turn on your oven. Stay cool!

  2. Wow….what an earthy beautiful mass. Great to see such a (non-Italian) talented writer/cook pull off such a lovely dish…spur of the moment!

  3. Yes, rule #1 when shopping for pretty much anything, don’t go into the expensive section, because you will want it, all of it. I love the image of marching bands without their uniforms, very rag-tag, but definitely better than a pile of bodies and tubas in the street. Looking forward to trying this summer salad. Hope the heat continues to drop in Chicago.

  4. I am a huge fan of Yotam Ottolenghi, and that marinated mozzarella you made looks incredible! It’s mid-winter here in Australia, so I’ll have to wait until summer to try this one out. :)

  5. We’ve been eating one or another variation of this for weeks at my place. I think the gentleman friend is addicted.

  6. Curious- which type of olive oil do you use?

  7. Perfect for that horrible heatwave we had! I also avoided the oven (my solution was gazpacho). This looks messy & beautiful — and I couldn’t agree more about the quality of the ingredients making the dish. I will make this for sure!

  8. Hi Tim,
    I’m a longtime reader but have never commented… I did attend one of your Floriole dinners awhile back though! Anyway, just wanted to come out of the woodwork and say I love your blog / ask where you get your buffalo mozzarella?

  9. Hey Franny- Thanks for commenting! I got mine at Marion Street Cheese Market in Oak Park, but I have also found it at Publican Quality Meats. I am sure other cheese shops in he city carry it, too.

  10. I was experiencing the same unbaerable heat in Chicago last week! This recipe looks absolutely scrumptious and refreshing. I’ll have to scope out some fresh moz in the city and make it soon! Thanks – and thank goodness for cooler weather this week!

  11. This recipe is perfect- simple, flavorful, and gorgeous!

  12. I love this salad and it is something I like to make often during the summer. But, here in the UK we had had the worst weather so haven’t made it so much recently. You can now buy good Buffalo Mozzarella that is British now so that is a bonus. I need a whole loaf of bread for the amazing sauce too!

  13. Always a great combination!

  14. Whoa. This looks so, so, tasty! Awesome idea!

  15. Such a great idea for a summer taste lunch!

  16. This looks great. I’m curious what other no-heat dishes did you serve? In Arizona, there are about four months where you don’t want to turn on the stove and I quickly run out of ideas of what to serve guests.

  17. I’ll follow your advice… recipe bookmarked until I can find some really good ingredients. :)

  18. I don’t eat cheese – dairy allergy – but this recipe so makes me want to. Just the picture with the herbs and oil in the bowl with the whisk made my mouth perk up. And the gorgeous cherry tomatoes. How can you go wrong with those? Well, maybe I’ll try it. Just this once. :)

  19. So pretty! Great pictures, wish I could join you.

  20. I really need to eat this very soon. So tasty and beautiful!

  21. I’m making this today with lovely little mozzarella balls from Fresh Farms in Niles and herbs from my own garden. I wonder if usinz a ziploc bag would be a good way to make sure everything stays coated for maximal marination? I’m gonna give it a try, anyway! Thanks for the inspiration and so glad I found you.

  22. This looks amazing! Will try this week for sure. Heirloom tomatoes, colorful, fresh basil and fresh mozz…..drizzled with our favorite olive oil, of course. Thank you for the beautiful photo to compliment a delicious dish!

  23. This looks incredible; this is the first time visiting your site and I can see why you won the Saveur Blog Awards. Your photographs are great. Do you shoot from home? How do you get all that light?

  24. Oh the fennel seed is like a little bit of magic!

  25. This dish looks good enough to dive into and I mean that literally! There really isn’t anything better that fresh mozzarella and vine ripened tomatoes!

  26. Great summer recipe, cant wait to try it! Love your site :)

  27. I made this yesterday. It is magical.

  28. Tim, how long in advance could I make this — the day before perhaps?

  29. Hey Kelly,
    I wouldn’t make this that far in advance. The cheese will get a little weird, and the flavors a little muddled. It is best to throw it together 30-60 minutes before you plan on eating it. Couple of hours would be fine, but I think overnight would be too much. But what do I know?! If you give it a try, let us know. : )

  30. So yummy! Did you use more oil than the 4 teaspoons?

  31. Hayley- I don’t think so, but we may have added some at the table. You certainly could add more if you like.

  32. Making this salad again for the second time tonight. We love it! Maybe it’s our Mozzarella, but we found we needed to add a little extra oil to get enough sauce/oil for dipping. Is this usual?

What do you think?