Persimmon Caprese Salad

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PERSIMMON CAPRESE  | A new twist to one of Italy’s most simple and delicious salads.

Sick of the typical heirloom tomato mozzarella salad combo (aka Insalata Caprese)? Fear not, I’ve come up with a new twist to one of my classical summer salad favourites. Why not substitute the tomatoes for the persimmon fruit? Like the bright redness of tomatoes, the luscious orange glow from persimmons will also provide a sharp contrast in color when juxtaposed against the creamy whiteness of mozzarella cheese.

Persimmons are one of those fruits that, when you catch the right moment of ripeness – which is limited to only one or two days – truly offer a culinary experience of perfection.

Honey sweet and so soft that the skin care barely hold their juicy flesh, they make a perfect complement to Mozzarella di Bufala.

untitled (4 of 15).jpgAs for origins, this delicate fruit is native to China. From China, it spread to Korean peninsula and Japan very long time ago, and later was introduced to California during the middle of the 19th century.

In terms of nutrition, persimmon provides a powerful dosage of vitamin A, offering 55% of the daily value. Vitamin C runs a close second with 21%, plus excellent amounts of manganese, a co-factor for the enzyme superoxide dismutase, for healthy mucous membranes and skin, as well as a known protectant against lung and mouth cancers.

For those who aren’t so regular, persimmons are also an excellent source of fiber. B-complex vitamins are present to stabilise the metabolic system, along with copper and phosphorus.

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Persimmon Caprese Salad

Time: 15 minutes | Serves: 3-4 as a side

Ingredients:

  • 1 mozzarella ball
  • 1 persimmon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of maple syrup
  • Bunch of fresh basil
  • A handful of walnuts
  • Sprinkle of cumin and cinnamon

Method:

  1. Rip mozzarella ball into bite-size chunks. Slice persimmon into wedges and then into bite-sized chunks. Tear off the leaves of the fresh basil.
  2. Mix walnuts with the cumin and cinnamon spices in a small bowl. On medium-low heat, slowly pan fry the walnuts until golden brown. Remove from slow and let cool.untitled (14 of 15)
  3. Combine olive oil, balsamic and maple syrup in a small bowl.untitled (15 of 15)
  4. Layer the persimmon chunks, mozzarella and basil leaves on a plate in a rustic fashion. Sprinkle the spiced walnuts on top. Drizzle the olive oil balsamic mix on top. If desired, squeeze some aged balsamic vinegar on top in a zig zag fashion for an extra dose of balsamic sweetness.untitled (7 of 15) untitled (3 of 15)untitled (9 of 15).jpg

Buffalo Mozzarella with Orange, Coriander Seeds and Lavender Oil

Burrata with Oranges, Coriander Seeds, and Lavender Oil (11 of 25)MOZZARELLA WITH A CITRUS SPARK | In lieu of tomatoes, mozzarella also pairs well with citrus fruits and a hint of lavender oil.

Debuted my new NOPI cookbook by making a quick adaptation of one of the restaurant’s signature dishes: the burrata with blood orange, coriander, and lavender seeds. Burrata with Oranges, Coriander Seeds, and Lavender Oil (2 of 2)According to Yotam Ottolenghi, customers come to NOPI for this dish alone and they sell about 1,000 each month!

However, much to my frustration, I struggled to find good quality burrata today at Citysuper (a high-end supermarket in Hong Kong). Nor was I able to source for blood oranges. Consequently, in lieu of burrata, a good quality buffalo mozzarella had to suffice. And in lieu of blood oranges, a regular orange had to do.

So what exactly is burrata? First, let’s be clear and stress what burrata is not. It is not mozzarella. While made from buffalo milk, burrata is not buffalo mozzarella. You will know the difference between the two when you taste it (warning though – you may not turn back to buffalo mozzarella after tasting the rich inner creaminess of a high quality burrata).

The outer shell is pure mozzarella, moulded like a a pouch, while the softer inside oozes a delicate mixture of mozzarella and cream when the ball is pulled apart.

In greater detail, mozzarella is what’s called a pulled curd or pasta filata cheese, which means that it’s formed from the elastic curd of fresh milk, still warm and straight from the vat. Burrata is made of that same stringy cheese, but is formed not into a solid ball, but into a little hollow pouch, which is then filled with fresh cream and soft stringy bits of curd, the ritagli, or rags, remaining after mozzarella making. It’s all tied off at the top, and then wrapped in the fronds of an Italian plant called asphodel (a relative of the leek).

Perhaps much of the confusion between the two stems from tradition, whereby the cheesemaking process for burrata stemmed from mozzarella – i.e., burrata was made in order to rescue the little scraps of mozzarella di bufala that were leftover in the cheesemaking vat.

Nonetheless, originating from the Puglia region of Italy, Burrata is in its own class entirely – you will know the second you taste it.Burrata with Oranges, Coriander Seeds, and Lavender Oil (18 of 25)Burrata is second to none and worth seeking out but a buffalo milk mozzarella can be used as an alternative.

Buffalo Mozzarella with orange, coriander seeds and lavender oil.

Time: 20 minutes | Serves: 2-3 as a side

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large mozzarella/burrata ball (150g)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon clear runny honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried lavender
  • 1/4 small clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted
  • 1 blood orange or 1 large sized orange
  • 5g basil leaves (shredded or hand torn) or micro-basil leaves
  • Coarse sea salt and extra virgin olive oil to drizzleBurrata with Oranges, Coriander Seeds, and Lavender Oil (1 of 25)

METHOD:

  1. Place oil in a small saucepan with the honey, lavender, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a simmer on medium-low heat and remove at once. Set aside to cool.Burrata with Oranges, Coriander Seeds, and Lavender Oil (2 of 25)
  2. Use a small paring knife to trim the tops and tails off the orange. Cut down the sides of the orange, and follow the natural curve to remove the skin and white pith. Depending on the size of your orange, slice into 6-8 rounds, ~0.8cm each, and remove the pips.Burrata with Oranges, Coriander Seeds, and Lavender Oil (3 of 25)
  3. Divide the orange slices on a clean white plate, slightly overlapping. Place burrata/mozzarella ball alongside. Spoon the coriander seeds and lavender oil over the cheese and orange, top with the shredded basil leaves or the micro-basil left whole. Lightly drizzle with some additional extra high quality extra virgin olive oil and serve. Burrata with Oranges, Coriander Seeds, and Lavender Oil (21 of 25) Burrata with Oranges, Coriander Seeds, and Lavender Oil (17 of 25)

Simple Caprese Salad

Caprese Salad (2 of 4)

Did you know the Caprese salad was originally made to resemble the colors of the Italian flag: red, white, and green? 

Insalata caprese (literally, the salad from Capri) is the perfect summertime dish for cooks in a hurry. In fact, slicing the delicate mozzarella is the hardest part.

I love the simplicity and refreshing taste of this simple salad. Serve it as an appetiser, as a side, or as a mid-afternoon snack.

For this who want the added richness (and sweetness) of a balsamic glaze, feel free to to make a balsamic reduction to drizzle on top as a final garnish. Now, you’ll notice that on the moist/wet mozzarella, the balsamic reduction starts to seep and run (a watercolor effect )– but on the basil leaves and platter, it remains more of a semi-solid glaze. So if you’re artistic, you can create designs on the sides of your platter to really up the presentation factor.

INGREDIENTS:

  • A pack of maxi mozzarella (250g) or two packs of mozzarella (125g each)
  • A bunch of fresh basil
  • Two round tomatoes
  • Extra virgin oil, to drizzle
  • Balsamic reduction (optional), to drizzle
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

METHOD:

  1. Slice mozzarella into 1/4 inch slices. Repeat for the tomatoes. Separate basil leaves from their stems.Caprese Salad (4 of 4)
  2. Layer alternating slices of tomatoes and mozzarella, adding a basil leaf between each, on a large, shallow platter. Grind fresh salt and black pepper all over and drizzle with a high quality extra virgin olive oil. For those who like balsamic vinegar, feel free to garnish with a balsamic glaze. Caprese Salad (1 of 4)

Ottolenghi’s Aubergine with Black Garlic

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Talk about unwavering devotion – my obsession with aubergines and Ottolenghi’s style of cooking has not ceased ever since I got back from London. Tonight, I experimented with his Aubergine with Black Garlic recipe set out in his vegetarian cookbook “Plenty More”.

Many of you may be asking “what exactly is black garlic?”. To save you the trouble from wikipedia-ing it, black garlic is the latest “it” ingredient, a new superfood. No, it is not a new strain of garlic nor a mutated garlic derivative. It is simply a type of caramelised garlic made by heating whole bulbs of garlic over the course of several weeks, a process that results in black cloves. The taste is sweet and syrupy with hints of balsamic vinegar or tamarind. It gives an unexpected depth of flavour to dishes. It is mellow enough not to dominate. As an added bonus, it supposedly has twice the antioxidants as regular garlic.

As for black garlics origins, it was first used as a food ingredient in Asian cuisine. Nowadays, its popularity has spread to the United States as it has become a sought-after ingredient used in high-end cuisine. Thanks to its recent appearance on Top Chef and Iron Chef, these two television shows have created newfound fame for this otherwise frightful thing. Trust me, if you found this on your kitchen counter and didn’t know that it was supposed to be black, you would mistaken it for being rotten.

Aubergines with Black Garlic Sauce (22 of 25)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 medium aubergines, sliced widthways into 1.5cm rounds
  • 200 ml olive oil
  • 8 large or 16 small black garlic cloves
  • 200g Greek yoghurt
  • 1.5 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 7 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 red chillies, sliced on the diagonal into 3mm rounds
  • 5g dill leaves
  • 5g basil leaves
  • 5g tarragon leaves (though I had to do without tarragon as this is not easily found in Hong Kong)

METHOD:

1) Preheat oven to 250 degrees celsius.

2) Place aubergine rounds into a large bowl and mix with 60ml of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper.Aubergines with Black Garlic Sauce (24 of 25)

3) Lay out on roasting tin lined with parchment paper. Roast until golden-brown and completely soft – about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

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4) While aubergines are roasting, make the sauce. Place the black garlic cloves in a small food processor with 1/3 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons of oil, 2 tablespoons of yoghurt and the lemon juice. Blitz for a minute to form a rough paste and then transfer to a medium bowl. Mix through the rest of the yogurt and keep in the fridge until needed.

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5) Heat the remaining oil in a small saucepan on high heat. Add the garlic and chilli slices, reduce the heat to medium and fry for about 5 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the garlic is golden-brown and the chilli is crispy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic and chilli on to a kitchen paper-lined plate.

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6) Arrange the aubergine slices, overlapping, on a platter. Spoon the yoghurt sauce on top, sprinkle over the chilli and garlic and finish with the herbs.

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Eggplant Parmesan Bake

Eggplant Parmesan Bake (2 of 24) When it comes to naming the top Italian comfort foods, the first thing that springs into my mind – aside from lasagne – is the eggplant parmesan. Substituting the lasagne sheets with eggplant slices, you can’t go wrong creating this layered casserole if you are looking to host a dinner party for friends or family. One thing to keep in mind when selecting eggplants is to choose firm, smooth eggplants. Also, do bear in mind that eggplants absorb oil like a sponge. So if you’re not careful, you could end up with something very mushy and oily. Simply follow the below simple recipe to create a wonderful cheesy and tomato-ey eggplant parmesan bake that doesn’t weigh you down with too much water or oil.

INGREDIENTS (serves 2-3 as a side dish):

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes (400g tin)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 1 bunch basil leaves, torn
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil and more for brushing eggplant slices
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Eggplant Parmesan Bake (24 of 24)

METHOD:

1) Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. 2) Heat a saucepan on medium heat. Add in diced garlic and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Gently cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Add the can of tomatoes and increase heat to bring to a simmer. Then lower heat to maintain a very low simmer for 15 minutes. Add in 1 tablespoon of tomato puree and season with salt and pepper, adjusting taste as desired. Eggplant Parmesan Bake (19 of 24) 3) In the meantime, as the tomato sauce is simmering, slice the eggplants into 5mm slices lengthwise to fit the casserole dish. Brush both sides of the eggplant with olive oil. Eggplant Parmesan Bake (21 of 24) 4) Heat a griddle pan on medium heat and layer the eggplant slices. Cook for approximately 5-6 minutes, flipping it over halfway until eggplant is cooked. Eggplant Parmesan Bake (15 of 24) 5) Now for the fun part! Layer eggplant slices into the casserole dish and spread the tomato sauce on top. Sprinkle some salt and pepper then layer the torn basil leaves and mozzarella and grated parmesan on top. Repeat the alternating process until all the eggplant is used up and you create some beautiful artistic layers. Eggplant Parmesan Bake (14 of 24) Eggplant Parmesan Bake (13 of 24)Eggplant Parmesan Bake (11 of 24) Eggplant Parmesan Bake (10 of 24) 6) Once the layering process has been completed, top with the remaining tomato sauce and the remaining cheese. Simply shove the oven proof dish into the oven and bake uncovered for ~20 minutes. Take out of the oven and decorate with the remaining basil leaves on the surface. Wait patiently for 10 minutes before cutting into to serve. Eggplant Parmesan Bake (4 of 24) Eggplant Parmesan Bake (3 of 24)