Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mozzarella de Bufala and Caprese Salad!!

Hello everyone! I have made a promise to the group of Whole Foodies who are going to be taking the ACS Certified Cheese Professional Exam this summer that I would post on some of the more popular PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) cheeses to help them prepare for the exam. I'll continue with the same format as I have in my previous posts, but I wanted to give you all a sense of the direction I will be heading the next few months.

This weekend I was back at my previous Whole Foods Market location in San Jose, CA but this time as a customer. I noticed that some locally grown tomatoes on the vine had come in and were looking scrumptious. During this time of year I start to get really excited about the heirloom tomatoes that will be coming and tend to just buy more tomatoes of all varieties while I wait as a result. But, being Italian, when I see yummy, plump, juicy tomatoes I think of one thing - Caprese Salad. And when it comes to which mozzarella to use, there is no contest... Mozzarella di Bufala.

Cheese: Mozzarella di Bufala Campana
Producer: Various
Region: Must be produced in Latina, Salerno, Caserta, or in certain parts of Rome, Naples and Benevento, Italy
Milk: Pasteurized water buffalo milk
Rennet: Traditional (animal)

The true foodies among us know that the only real mozzarella is the mozzarella that is made with water buffalo milk. Not to knock the cow's milk mozzarella, but the buffalo milk mozzarella is beyond reproach. In order for it to be called Mozzarella di Bufala it must be produced in the regions listed above, weigh from 10 to 800 grams, be free of any defects and cannot contain any preservatives or dyes. It falls into the Pasta Filata category of cheeses which means the curd is heated to a point where it can be stretched and formed into balls or other shapes. Traditionally it comes in a ball shape as shown below...

The flavor of the Mozzarella di Bufala is much more complex than its cow's milk counterpart. It has that wonderful sweet creaminess that you get from good quality whole milk and a touch of gameyness due to the fact that it is made of water buffalo milk. Water buffalo milk is naturally higher in fat and protein (like sheep's milk) so it creates a richer flavor. It isn't a strong cheese but is used more as a vehicle for other flavors.

The texture is also very interesting. The outside of the cheese is just barely tougher than the inside (it reminds me of burrata) with the inside being slightly granular, but much more moist and creamy. This is a result of it being in a brine solution and shipped to the U.S. If you were to eat this cheese fresh in Italy, the outside would be a similar consistency as the inside.

Now for the Caprese Salad! Here's how you make it:
(I don't give any measurements because you should make this salad how you like it!)

Mozzarella di Bufala
Tomatoes (when you can get heirloom tomatoes, don't skimp out)
Fresh Basil
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper (or in my case Tuscan Salt)

Chop up the Mozzarella and the tomatoes and throw them into a bowl.

Chop up the fresh basil and add to the mix.

Add olive oil (use you best judgement, you just want to lightly coat the ingredients, not drown them)

Then add your seasoning... I used Tuscan salt, but I haven't seen it in a Whole Foods in a while. So I took a picture of what this salt mix contains so you can recreate it if you wish.

Then mix and enjoy!!

I literally could eat Caprese salad every day of the week if I could. If you're a fan of this salad, make sure you try it with the Mozzarella di Bufala to take it to the next level. Let me know what you think!

Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!!