Cherry Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella balls and basil in a wine glass, Deconstructed Caprese Salad Appetizer is perfect for a dinner party or nice picnic.
What’s the best thing about living in Wisconsin? While I could never decide on the best, cheese is certainly up there!
So, today’s salad/appetizer features cheese: small fresh mozzarella balls also known as Ciliegine. Ciliegine translates as small cherry–and these quarter-sized spheres of creamy cheese are perfect in appetizers and salads!
If you look at the classic Caprese salad, slices of fresh mozzarella feature prominently, sandwiched between sliced tomato and basil leaves. But years ago, I had a unique and even tastier version of this salad. Served on a tour of Crave Brothers Cheese near Madison (not a sponsored post), I’ve been meaning to recreate it ever since.
This version, which I call a Deconstructed Caprese Salad, uses Ciliegine and cherry tomatoes instead of slices of the larger counterparts. It’s all tossed with julienned basil and “basil drizzle” then served in a wine glass. A cheese straw or breadstick is also a nice finishing touch (and someday I’m going to add a pinch of microgreens).
The dish has a natural elegance, and would be equally home at a fancy dinner party or nice picnic.
You can find Ciliegine packaged with oil and herbs (“marinated”) or in water. The marinated version makes this dish super easy, but if you can’t find it, just drain the Ciliegine and toss with some oil and herbs of your own (instructions in recipe).
- 4 Tablespoons olive oil
- 6 large basil leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes (multicolor heirloom if available)
- 12 large basil leaves, julienned (see notes)
- 1 8-ounce package fresh mozzarella balls ( Ciliegine) in herbs, drained (see note if only water packed is available)
- Garnish of your choice, e.g small breadstick or cheese straws
- Blend dressing ingredients in blender until almost smooth.
- Halve cherry tomatoes, then toss with drained Ciliegine and basil with dressing then spoon into wine glasses.
- Garnish with cheese straws or breadsticks if desired.
- To julienne basil, stack 6 basil leaves, then roll up like a cigar. Make 1/8 - 1/4 inch slices along the length of the "cigar" then unfold into basil ribbons.
- If you only get water packed Ciliegine, drain the cheese then toss with 1 Tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon basil, 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes.
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