Creamy tomato and mozzarella salad is a nice alternative to the more traditional Caprese Salad. Both have their place as an exceptional first course or appetizer and both feature ripe tomatoes and fresh mozzarella nicely as the star ingredients. Yet creamy tomato and mozzarella salad have an element of surprise with heat from the jalapeño chilies, a slight brininess from the capers, and a bright lemony creaminess from the dressing.
To make this mozzarella salad sing like the opening act of an all-star concert, be very particular about the ingredients you use.
First and foremost, only use perfectly ripe tomatoes and locally grown tomatoes if you can get them. This mozzarella salad is at its best when the tomatoes are in season and bursting with sweet sun-ripened flavor. Out of season tomatoes just won’t do the salad justice. The juices from ripe tomatoes will blend into the dressing creating a sauce perfect for soaking up with good crusty bread. If you must make this salad before or after tomato season, use cherry or grape tomatoes as you can get a good tasting and ripe, hydroponically grown grape tomatoes during the year.
Also, use any variety of tomato, as long as the tomatoes are ripe. If you like to mix things up, use a variety of tomatoes with different shapes, sizes, and color. Yellow tomatoes are especially nice in this mozzarella salad as they have less acid than the red variety.
Second, use only fresh mozzarella. The vacuum sealed mozzarella you find in the dairy section of the store is no substitute. Even the brand that looks like it is fresh mozzarella. If it is vacuumed sealed it is not fresh. Don’t even think about it. That cheese works nicely on a pizza but not in a salad. Fortunately, several markets make their own mozzarella, so it is not hard to come by. Often the mozzarella is kept in water, or just freshly wrapped in plastic wrap and sold the day it is made. Buffalo mozzarella is another alternative if you can find it.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Third, use the best tasting extra virgin olive oil you can afford. Don’t use the generic extra virgin olive oil that is really a blend of oils, but real extra virgin olive oil with a fruity and peppery note and body. You do not need to buy the most expensive one, just a good one that you like.
More tomato recipes
By using the best quality ingredients, this mozzarella salad is hard to resist. It is immensely satisfying as only food made with fresh quality ingredients is. Both tomatoes and fresh mozzarella taste best when they are at room temperature, so serve the mozzarella salad at room temperature. Though, it is easier to slice mozzarella when it is cold and right out of the refrigerator. I recommend making the salad no more than an hour before you want to serve it. Unfortunately, mozzarella salad is not a make-ahead meal.
Additionally, I recommend slicing the mozzarella and tomatoes into reasonable size slices. My yellow tomato was very large, so I cut each slice into quarters. It was a lot more manageable that way. Also, I cut each mozzarella slice in half, especially the middle slices.
If you wish, you can rip large bite-size pieces of the mozzarella and scatter the pieces over the tomatoes instead of layering each slice. This looks especially nice when you have different varieties of tomatoes in your salad and you arrange the tomatoes and mozzarella in a random pattern.
Mozzarella Salad makes a delicious first course or an appetizer with slices of grilled crusty bread like a baguette. You are going to want something to soak up the delicious juices from the tomatoes and dressing. Either way, this tomato and mozzarella salad is a fine addition to your salad repertoire.
August and September are the best months to enjoy ripe tomatoes so go get some before they are gone.
This recipe is adapted from Marinated Mozzarella with Crème Fraîche and Lemon and Marjoram by Jamie Oliver’s cookbook, Happy Days with the Naked Chef, and Lemon Cream from Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden.
My Creamy Tomato and Mozzarella Salad recipe is part of a social media collaborative project featuring tomatoes. Below the recipe is a list of all the talented Instagramers and food bloggers who are participating in the #wesaytomatoes collaboration. Please check out their tomato recipes for more tomato inspiration
Creamy Tomato and Mozzarella Salad
Creamy tomato and mozzarella salad is a wonderful change from the traditional Caprese Salad. Like a Caprese salad, creamy tomato and mozzarella salad showcase both the tomatoes and mozzarella as the stars of the meal. Yet in this salad, the fresh mozzarella and sun-ripened tomatoes get a subtle yet complimentary embellishment from the lemon cream, minced jalapeño chilis, and fresh herbs. The layer of heat from the chili pairs nicely with the fresh cheese and creamy dressing and adds a crisp bite within this yielding salad. I like adding a subtle but briny tang to the salad, so I added capers for some extra lift.
This is one of those salads that you don't really need to follow the recipe ingredients amounts exactly. Use this recipe as a guideline and adjust the ingredients to suit your taste. The food pairings are lovely, but how much jalapeño, fresh herbs, capers, and dressing is best determined by your taste. If you use the best quality ingredients, this mozzarella salad is a winner no matter how much jalapeño you add. When adjusting the ingredients to your taste, remember to start with less as you can always add more. It is much harder to take away.
If you can find fresh marjoram substitute it for the oregano. This dish benefits from the flavor of fresh herbs, so do not use dried herbs. If you are not a fan of oregano, substitute it with fresh thyme, lemon thyme or rosemary.
This recipe is adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Marinated Mozzarella in Crème Fraiche with Lemon and Marjoram from his book, Happy Days. The Creamy dressing is adapted from Joshua McFadden’s Lemon Cream, in his book, Six Seasons
Best eaten at room temperature and the day it is made.
- 2 lbs (1 kg) ripe tomatoes any variety or color
- 1 lb (500 g) fresh mozzarella or buffalo mozzarella
- Kosher Salt and Fresh Black pepper to taste
- Lemon Dressing
- 1 lemon
- ½ - 1 jalapeño chili
- 1 TB capers
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Fresh oregano or marjoram to taste about 2 teaspoons or more
- ¼ cup (60 ml) heavy cream
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and smashed remove green germ
- Pinch Kosher Salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- ½ tsp of lemon zest
- 1 TB (15 ml) fresh lemon juice
- 1 TB (15 ml) extra virgin olive oil
Make the lemon dressing
In a small bowl add the garlic and heavy cream and allow to infuse for a couple of hours in the refrigerator. This gives you a nice garlic flavor without the bracing bite from garlic.
After 2 hours, fish out the garlic cloves from the heavy cream and add the Kosher salt and several rounds of freshly ground black pepper, and lemon zest.
Using a wire whisk, whisk the cream by hand until the cream just starts to thicken. Add the lemon juice and olive oil and whisk until airy but pourable. This won’t get thick like fully whipped cream. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking. Cover the bowl and keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Best if used the same day it is made.
Assemble the Salad
Slice the tomatoes a shy 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick and spread out in a single layer on a tray or cutting board. Lightly sprinkle the slices with flaky sea salt and fresh black pepper. Slice the mozzarella in ¼ inch (.5cm) slices.
Arrange the tomatoes and mozzarella slices around a platter by alternating slices of tomatoes with slices of mozzarella.
Slice the jalapeño pepper in half and remove the stem, white pith and seeds. The white pith and seeds carry most of the heat in the chili so if you want it a little spicier, leave some of the white pith intact. However, make sure you remove all of the seeds as they would look unappealing in this dish. Mince the jalapeño chili and sprinkle it over the tomatoes and mozzarella. You may only need about half of the jalapeño chili, but use as much as you want.
Sprinkle some of the fresh oregano, and capers over the salad. Pretend like you are Jackson Pollock and paint the tomatoes and mozzarella arrangement with the lemon cream. Depending on how thick the lemon cream is, I find it works best if you wave a spoon back and forth, filled with the dressing above the salad. You will get a random pattern of the creamy dressing but not a heavy and gloppy looking one. You will not use all the dressing. Serve extra dressing on the side for those who want more.
Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil over the salad and extra herbs, capers and minced jalapeño, flaky sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.
Serve room temperature as a salad or first course. Or serve as an appetizer with crusty bread or grilled bread.
This is best eaten the day it is made. If you have some leftovers, store in the refrigerator and eat up the next day.
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© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
In Spain they call it, a la plancha. Italians refer to it as, a la piastra. In Greece, on a staz. No matter what you call it, it’s a centuries old Mediterranean technique for grilling vegetables, fish and meats. In Spain they use a round metal plate, but in Greece they use a piece of sheet metal placed directly on the grill. From Italy, a stone or a metal plate creates a hot flat surface over an open flame. Essentially, it is a flat metal or stone griddle, set over a grill grate over an open flame. Mediterranean cooks know how to grill their vegetables because these grilled vegetables never tasted so good.
This technique does not produce fancy crisscross grill marks on your grilled vegetables, but what you do get are tender vegetables that retain some bite and have a good sear from the stone or griddle. Ultimately, the more surface area that touches the vegetables, means more flavor on your grilled vegetables from the sear. Another bonus is, no more vegetables falling through the grates and flare ups. Mediterranean style grilled vegetables are sweet, lightly flavored from the fire’s smoke, and seared to perfection.
A New Way with Grilled Vegetables
It all started yesterday on an impulse after coming upon the phrase, “… a la piastra,” in one of my cookbooks. It was an “Ah ha” moment for me with the realization of a refrigerator full of vegetables and an old cast iron griddle begging for use. With my fingers crossed and plans for dinner and a blog post on the horizon, I decided to give “A la piastra” grilling technique a try. It was just meant to be.
I do love the flavor of grilled vegetables, but when I grill chicken or meats, I don’t always grill vegetables for a side dish. Mainly, I do not want my whole dinner tasting all the same. Also, depending on how many people we are cooking for, there is just no room on my 22-inch charcoal grill.
Because this was somewhat impulsive, and I was “recipe testing”, I did not cook the vegetables in an organized manner, but fit the different vegetables here and there along with our dinner of stuffed rainbow trout. I was not sure how long the grill would stay hot, so I cooked things together instead of one at a time. Regardless of my cooking organization, I don’t mind a hodgepodge of grilled vegetables because my job was to use up a bunch of vegetables and test out this grilling technique. I call this mission a delicious success, hodgepodge or not. Now, I have a beautiful mess of tasty grilled vegetables ready whenever I want them.
Grilled Vegetables a la Piastra
What I discovered is if you have a cast iron pan or griddle, they create a hot surface to make delicious grilled vegetables, fish and meets. I have yet to test other types of food, but I can’t imagine there is an issue using this technique for shellfish, chicken or steak. Grilling a la piastra or plancha, works particularly well with thin vegetables or sliced vegetables that would normally fall through the spaces on a grill grate. I loved using this technique with thinly sliced zucchini, asparagus, sliced onions, and garlic scapes. Some additional vegetables I want to try are fennel, eggplant and mushrooms.
It is my opinion that grilling bell peppers works better over the open grill grate. They just took longer to get blistered and charred when on the hot surface vs the grill grates. Also corn works better over the open fire and by better, I mean it does not take as long to cook.
Fruit like lemons and oranges grill nicely on a hot plate, but my mind is not made up for peaches. My peach halves stuck to both the grill grate and the cast iron griddle, but this was also the first time I grilled peaches.
How to Grill Vegetables a la Piastra
First, this technique is best using a charcoal grill, but I believe will work with a gas grill, but you won’t get the smoky flavor. Using either grill you must make a hot fire that will last for a while depending on how much food you are grilling. Get the charcoal good and hot, then place the griddle pan or stone on your grate. Heat up your griddle surface for 15 minutes until the surface gets really hot. Close the lid if you are using a gas grill, keep the lid off if you are using a charcoal grill.
Once the grill is hot, oil the grill grate. Do not oil the hot griddle. It is possible that the oil soaked paper towel could burst into flames from the heat of the pan. Instead, generously coat the vegetables and fish in canola oil or other oil with a high smoke point. Arrange the vegetables on the surface of your “griddle” and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the vegetable.
Depending on the surface area of your plate, you will need to cook the vegetables in shifts. Just to be organized, cook the same vegetables all at the same time. Once done, remove the vegetables off the grill and place them spaced out on a tray or plate. If you pile them up, the vegetables will steam and get soggy.
Once done, let the grill plate cool completely before handling. If possible, use tongs and a scrubby to scrape off any stuck on bits while the surface is still hot. It is easier to clean off the charred bits when the plate is still hot, but not at the expense of getting burned.
Equipment for Grilling Vegetables
- You need a grill, preferably a charcoal grill but a gas one will work fine.
- Good quality charcoal without lighter fluid and a charcoal chimney to start the coals.
- BBQ quality oven mitt or glove.
- A cast iron pan or griddle, pizza stone, baking steel or food grade metal or stone surface that can tolerate temperature up to 700°F (371°C). Some pizza stones can only withstand temperatures up to 500°F (260°C) or lower.
- Long metal BBQ tongs without plastic tips.
- A good BBQ spatula.
- Several trays for putting the grilled vegetables on.
- A timer is helpful
What to do with all these grilled vegetables?
Serve grilled vegetables with grilled fish, grilled tofu, grilled chicken or steak, or roast chicken.
Assemble a platter of grilled vegetables, olives, cured meats, cheeses and crusty bread. Dine al fresco for a light dinner or a cocktail party.
Make a light pesto dressing with muddled basil leaves, smashed garlic, olive oil and vinegar and dress the grilled vegetables.
Grilled vegetable sandwiches with crusty bread, basil mayo or sriracha mayo, with Gouda or mozzarella cheese (smoked or plain) and grilled vegetables.
Frittata with grilled vegetables.
Where to buy a La Plancha griddle pan?
The Big Green Egg has a la plancha griddle for the Big Green Egg. It could work on other round grills depending on the size of the pan and your grill. (Not an add)
Lodge makes a round carbon steel griddle pan. They also make griddle pans in different sizes, shapes and materials. (Not an add)
Hodgepodge of Grilled Vegetables Mediterranean Style
- red bell pepper
- 1 yellow bell pepper
- 1 red onion sliced into rings about ¼-inch .5 cm thick
- 1-2 leeks sliced in half lengthwise, cleaned and root and dark green parts trimmed off
- 4-6 garlic cloves peel on
- 2 zucchini sliced lengthwise into ¼- inch .5 cm thick slices
- 1 yellow squash sliced lengthwise into ¼-inch .5 cm thick slices
- 12 or more asparagus spears ends trimmed
- 8 garlic scapes optional
- 2 lemons cut in half across the width.
- 1 peach cut in half across the equator optional
- 2 ears of corn husk and silk threads removed optional
- 1 fennel bulb stalks removed and sliced in 1/4 -inch (.5 cm) slices (optional)
- 2-3 TB Canola oil or other oil with a high smoke point
- Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 loaf French bread sliced on a diagonal optional
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 TB Red wine vinegar
- 1 large bunch of basil leaves cleaned and stems removed
Prepare your grill. If using a gas grill, heat to 450°F (230°C). For a charcoal grill, fill a charcoal chimney to the top with charcoal. Rest the chimney on the charcoal grate. Light the chimney according to manufacture instructions. Heat the charcoal until all the coals are very hot. They will look mostly grey with streaks of black throughout each lump or briquette. Put on an BBQ mitt and carefully empty the hot charcoal onto the grate. Add an additional half chimney’s worth of charcoal and spread out over the hot charcoal. Arrange the charcoal over the bottom of the whole grate, but with one side having more charcoal than the other. Place the top grilling grate on the grill and the grill pan over the side with the most charcoal. Heat until the grill pan and grate are good and hot, about 15 minutes. Close lid if using a gas grill. The grill pan is hot when you flick water on the grill pan and it bubbles up and dances on the surface.
While the grill is heating up, add the zucchini slices, asparagus and scapes in a large bowl and drizzle about 1 TB (15 ml) of oil over the prepared vegetables. Use the remaining oil to baste the remaining vegetables. Arrange the onion slices and leek halves on a sheet pan and baste with oil on both sides. Baste some oil over the cut surface of the cut lemons. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of Kosher salt over the vegetables, except the bell peppers.
When the grill is hot, arrange the bell peppers on the side of the grill without the grill pan. Every few minutes, use long tongs to turn the bell peppers over so the whole pepper gets a good char and is blistered, about 15 minutes. Once the bell peppers get black all over, place them in a medium bowl and tightly cover with foil and plastic wrap. Set aside to allow the peppers to steam in the bowl for at least 15 minutes.
If using corn on the cob, place them on the grill grate with the bell peppers. Start the corn when you start the peppers. Cook the corn turning them periodically to get an even char on all sides, about 8-10 minutes total.
Meanwhile, arrange the onion slices, garlic cloves and leeks on the grill pan. Cook for 2 minutes then turn over on the other side. You want the onions and leeks to get soft with a nice sear on both sides. Once done, remove from the grill and place on a tray. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. The garlic is done, when you see some brown spots on the peel and they are soft in the middle.
Place the lemon halves cut side down on the grill or grill pan and cook until a good sear develops on the cut side, about 3-4 minutes.
When there is room on the grill pan, arrange the zucchini and yellow squash slices on the grate and cook about 2-3 minutes per side. You want browned surface on both sides and tender slices of squash with a slight crispness. Place the squash on a tray when done. Lightly sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss to evenly coat.
Cook the asparagus and garlic scapes on the grill plate. Turning each asparagus spear and garlic scape over around 3 minutes per side. You want the asparagus and scapes to get soft but still have some bite. When done, place the vegetables on a tray. Lightly sprinkle with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss to coat.
If you are grilling the fennel add the fennel slices when there is room on the grill pan and cook 3 minutes per side, or until soft but still firm. Place on a tray when done. Sprinkle on Kosher salt and black pepper and toss to coat.
Add the sliced French bread, if using, on the grill and toast until the bread is golden brown. How long it will take will depend on how hot your fire is at this time.
When all the vegetables are cooked, remove the skins off the bell peppers by rubbing your hands over the charred skin and pulling off the skin until it is all clear. Do not run the bell pepper under water, or you will wash away all that delicious flavor you worked so hard to make. Clean hands and remove the core from each pepper and slice into slices.
Remove the garlic peels off each clove. Take 1-2 grilled garlic cloves and rub it over the toasted French bread. Add any remaining cloves to the vegetable platter.
Arrange all the vegetables on a platter in piles. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar, and torn basil. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Grilled garlic scapes taste great minced and placed on top of ricotta cheese toasts. Or, mince and add to the olive oil and fresh basil, then sprinkle over the grilled vegetables.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
If I were to make myself a birthday pizza, Squash blossom pizza would be it. I can’t imagine a prettier and sunnier looking pizza. It has everything I love, fresh edible flowers, soft and decadent cheese, and crispy bread all in one gorgeous pizza. Squash blossoms are a rare treat available only for a about a month in the summer when there is an abundance of male and female flowers on zucchini plants. The male flower is picked, leaving some to continue pollinating the female flowers to grow squash. Luckily my birthday falls during this time allowing me to indulge in one of mother nature’s seasonal gifts.
Squash Blossom Pizza
Unless you grow your own vegetables, finding squash blossoms is challenging. It is like going on a scavenger hunt but instead of knocking on the doors of strangers looking for a wire coat hanger to shape into a sculpture, you go from farmer to farmer looking for squash blossoms. Ask your favorite farm stand vender if they have squash blossoms and if they can sell some to you. Also, I recommend getting to the farmers market just as it opens pick out the squash blossoms before it gets too hot, or before they disappear. Fortunately, I was able to arrange to get these squash blossoms from Rochambeau Farm Stand, for which I am very grateful.
For a 10-inch (25.5 cm) pizza you will need around 12 squash blossoms. From my experience squash blossoms come in all different sizes so I recommend buying a few extras.
Preparing squash blossoms for this pizza is not difficult. All you need is to trim the stems off each blossom then cut the flower open and remove the stamen. Once the pizza dough is ready, arrange the open blossoms in two concentric circles to cover the pizza. The blossoms curl up somewhat but try to get them as close together as possible. The next time I make this pizza I will cut a few extra blossoms in sections, so I can fill the bare spots and get more blossoms per square inch.
Watch out for bees and other insects hiding inside the closed flowers. Once you cut open the flower, carefully inspect each flower and shake off the little critters.
Use store-bought fresh pizza dough from your favorite pizza parlor or buy the dough from the grocery. I hear Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods has delicious pizza dough for sale. My local family run grocer has good pizza dough as well, so look around they are usually found in the refrigerator aisle.
If you feel up to it, make pizza dough, but keep in mind some recipes require you start the process 4 days in advance. I have not posted a recipe yet, as I am still developing my pizza dough recipe. Developing a pizza dough recipe takes time and lots of practice so until then, I have tested pizza dough recipes from Serious Eats, or the 72 hour pizza dough with whole wheat flour in The Baking Steel Cookbook.
Cheese for Squash Blossom Pizza
Creamy burrata is recommended for squash blossom pizza. It pairs well with the tomato sauce and the squash blossoms. It is not too rich, and you add it after the pizza is done baking. If you cannot find burrata, look for any soft and creamy type of cheese like good quality fresh whole milk ricotta, goat cheese, or fresh mozzarella. The goat cheese I would add to the pizza after baking, but the ricotta and mozzarella I would arrange on the pizza before I place it in the oven.
A 10-inch pizza is a small pizza, often considered small enough for one serving. In good conscious, I cannot recommend one person eating 4 oz of burrata. It’s just not healthy to eat a quarter pound of cheese no matter how much you love burrata. If you want your pizza as a single serving, please dollop half the amount of cheese over the pie using 2 oz instead of 4.
Squash Blossom Pizza with Burrata
Use store-bought pizza dough enough for one 10-inch pizza (about 7.5 oz / 212 g in weight) or make your own pizza dough. Making your own pizza dough takes some advance planning as some recipes takes from 48- 72 hours to mature.
Makes one 10 inch (25.5 cm) pizza and serves 1-2 people.
Use a quick, fresh tasting tomato sauce flavored with olive oil. See notes for a recipe.
- 10 – 12 fresh squash blossoms
- 1 fresh pizza dough portion for a 10-inch 25.5 cm pizza
- 1 TB 15 ml extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for finishing the pizza
- Kosher Salt
- ¼ cup 75 ml fresh tomato sauce
- 4 oz 125 g burrata
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Remove the pizza dough from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking. This step allows the pizza dough to relax and come up to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 500°F / 260°C /Gas Mark 10 one hour before you want to cook the pizza. If you have a pizza stone, lower the rack at the bottom position and place the stone on the rack. If you have a baking steel, position the rack 6 inches (15 cm) under the broiler (top rack) and place the baking steel on the rack. Or, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Preheat stone or steel in the oven.
If you have neither stone or steel, place a baking sheet pan upside down on top of the bottom rack, similar to the baking stone, and preheat.
If you do not have a pizza peel, reserve a sheet pan to the side of your work space and cover with a sheet of parchment paper. Once the dough is shaped, you will assemble the pizza on the sheet pan instead of a peel.
Prepare the squash blossoms
Trim off the stems of each squash blossom and discard. Open each blossom by cutting down the side of each blossom with kitchen scissors then and cut away the stamen. Discard the stamens. Set aside.
Shape the dough
When you are ready to cook the pizza, assemble all the equipment and ingredients you need for the pizza. The peel, extra flour and some corn meal for the peel, and all pizza ingredients. Arrange them on either side of your work space, giving you plenty of space to shape and assemble the pizza, but still within arm’s reach.
Lightly flour your work surface and pizza peel, if using. Tip your pizza dough in the center of the floured work surface. Press down on the center of the dough ball and flatten to form a disk. Press near the edge of the dough with your fingertips, creating a rim border about 1-inch (2.5 cm) thick around the pizza dough.
Hold your hands in a loose fist and drape the disk over the tops of your fists. Holding your fist in front of your body stretch out the dough and allow it to drape down over your hands. Move the pizza dough around in a circle to evenly shape the pizza dough. Stretch the dough from the outer rim with your thumbs, and from the weight of the dough draping over your fists.
When your dough stretches to a 10-inch diameter (25.5 cm) pizza, place it on your floured pizza peel or prepared sheet pan. Shake the pizza peel back and forth to see if the pizza dough will slide off the peel. If it sticks carefully add more flour or corn meal over the pizza peel by lifting up the edges of the pizza and dust the pizza peel. Do this around the pizza until the dough slides easily.
Assemble the pizza
Quickly assemble the pizza. Spoon the tomato sauce in the center of the pizza and spread it evenly over the surface leaving a one-inch (2.5 cm) border. Starting at the inside edge of your border, arrange the squash blossoms in an even and circular pattern around the pizza in two concentric circles. The exterior side of the blossom faces up. The tips of the flowers in the inner circle will overlap the stem end of the flowers in the outer circle. Place two blossoms over the center of the circle with the stem ends touching each other.
Shake the pizza peel to see if it is loose and will slide. If the pizza is sticking, carefully lift up the edges and dust with flour or corn meal until it easily slides.
Slide the pizza off the peel and position on the stone, steel or sheet pan. If you are not using a peel, place the sheet pan holding the pizza on top of your baking steel, stone, or upside down sheet pan.
To slide the pizza off the peel, position the pizza peel towards the back of the stone or steel. Give the peel a definitive shake, pulling your peel towards you. You want the pizza to slide off the peel with one good shake so don’t be timid about pulling the pizza peel towards you. One good jolt helps the pizza slide off and retain its shape. Pull the peel out of the oven then close the door and bake.
Bake in the oven until the crust is golden and crispy anywhere from 8-12 minutes depending on your oven. Lift up the pizza with a large spatula and inspect the bottom crust. That should be golden as well. If you are using a Baking steel it may take less time. Use the time as guidelines because individual conditions vary. Half way through baking, Use a large BBQ spatula to rotate the pizza from front to back to ensure even cooking.
When done, remove the pizza from the oven and slice into quarters with a large and sharp chef knife or pizza cutter. Cut the burrata into 4 even sections and place in the middle of each pizza wedge. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. If you have good quality finishing extra virgin olive oil, use it here with a few grounds of fresh black pepper.
Nancy Silverton’s specifies a Passata di Pomodoro sauce for this pizza. It is made with 2- 28 oz (794 g) cans of whole plum tomatoes, a shy tablespoon of sugar, a shy tablespoon of Kosher salt, and ¼ cup (75 ml) extra virgin olive oil. The skins and seeds are removed from the tomatoes using a food mill, “passed through” as the name indicates. I do not have a food mill, so I just puréed the tomatoes and can liquid with an immersion blender after I removed the seeds. FYI, the brand SM whole plum tomatoes (San Marzano tomatoes from California) have the skins already removed. Heat up the olive oil in a large pot and carefully add the tomato purée and the remaining ingredients. Simmer until it thickens. About 30 minutes.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Sometimes when I begin a new cooking project, I need to forge ahead with blind faith and fingers crossed. Lingering in the back of my conscious is a belief that everything will work. The last thing I want to worry about is my latest “masterpiece” ending up in the trash can. This tomato tart recipe is a perfect example of my latest cooking adventure starting with confidence from blind faith.
I have always wanted to make a tomato tart. Every time I see a photograph of one, I drool over the pictures and imagine tomatoes roasting in the oven, cradled in a buttery pastry crust. Unfortunately, I don’t always believe photographs of tomato tarts show any real likeness to a real-life fully cooked one. Tomatoes consist mostly of water and a tart baked with a lot of tomatoes could easily become a soggy mess. So, I often wondered what I was seeing in the tempting photographs was accurate. None the less, I never made a savory tomato pastry, so I can’t say for certain how they look in real life.
Taking inspiration from a cookbook I am reading, Six Seasons, A New Way with Vegetables by Joshua McFadden, I finally managed to motivate myself and make a tomato tart. I also needed to use up some leftover ingredients.. Often some of my best meals are the result of needing to use up the leftover ingredients from a former meal. If you haven’t noticed already, a regular statement of mine is, “I created … because I had leftover… Now … is a family favorite”.
There are two recipes in “Six Seasons” cookbook that create the foundation for my tomato tart recipe: Israeli-Spiced Tomatoes, Yogurt Sauce and Chickpeas, and a recipe for Pecan Pie Dough. The Israeli-spiced tomatoes have a bright flavor that compliments the natural sweetness in fresh summer tomatoes. It is a delicious salad with the yogurt sauce and chickpeas. This recipe gave me the idea of making a tomato tart using the same seasoning and preparation technique for marinating the tomatoes. I also had two ripe heirloom tomatoes on my window sill giving me the use or lose stare-down.
I also wanted to make the nut pie pastry crust, and Joshua McFadden has an alluring recipe using pecans. A tomato tart seemed like the perfect recipe to use a nut pie crust. Plus, and I am always open for any excuse to bake. For my recipe, I substituted the pecans with walnuts and reduced the amount of sugar to one tablespoon.
More recipes inspired by Joshua McFadden, Summer Vegetable and Steak Salad.
The biggest challenge when baking tomatoes and pastry dough, is keeping the crust from getting a soggy bottom. If you know the challenges ahead, taking the necessary steps to prevent them, will guarantee a beautiful flaky pie crust. With the two foundation recipes set, I went about making the tart and using a few necessary steps to create a tomato tart with a nutty and flaky crust that was anything but soggy.
For my first step, I par-baked the pie crust. Par-baking a pie crust is a technique used for many types of pies and tarts, like a lemon meringue pie. Partially baking a pie crust before adding the filling helps produce a dry and flaky pie crust. It might take longer to finish the pie, but this technique really works.
Even a par-baked crust needs a layer of protection between the crust and the filling. For this recipe, I decided to baste a thin layer of Dijon mustard across the bottom of the pre-baked crust. The mustard adds some tang and will mix well with the ricotta cheese. If you do not like Dijon mustard, baste a layer of egg wash over the bottom of the par-baked crust. It does the same job as the mustard without adding any additional flavor.
Try this recipe for potato salad with tomatoes and summer vegetables.
Firing up the grill this weekend? Grilled Chicken with Poblano Chili Cream Sauce
Spread over the mustard, I added a layer of ricotta cheese. Good quality fresh ricotta is so creamy it is worth the higher price. If you can find some at your grocery store, I recommend it. In this tart, the ricotta cheese layer absorbs any of the juices from the tomatoes which helps keep the ricotta from drying out and the crust dry. A lot of tomato tart recipes do not call for ricotta cheese. I added it because it was another leftover ingredient I needed to use up before it expired. The ricotta’s creamy flavor is a nice contrast to the roasted tomatoes. Also, adding the ricotta makes the tart more substantial as a main course for lunch or a light supper.
For the final step, I seasoned the tomatoes and let them marinate for an hour. The salt with the spices causes the tomatoes to release some of their liquid. Later, before I arranged the tomatoes around the tart, I used a paper towel to blot the tomato slices and dry them up a bit. The tomatoes marinate while the crust par-bakes, so no additional time is added to the whole process.
It might seem like a lot of steps, but they all add up and work. The result is a tomato tart with a nutty and flaky crust, with a creamy ricotta and roasted tomato filling. I started making this tomato tart with blind faith and fingers crossed. Fortunately, after thinking ahead I came up with solutions to solve any challenges along the way. With inspiration from creative chefs as guidance, I made a tomato tart that I am proud of. There is no false advertising with these photos. What you see is what you get.
Tomato Tart with Ricotta and Mediterranean Seasoning
- Walnut Pastry Dough recipe follows
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 3/4 tsp Kosher salt
- 1 tsp sumac*
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
- 2 tomatoes medium to large size
- 1 cup (8 oz / 241 g) fresh ricotta
- Zest of one lemon finely grated
- 2 tsp lemon thyme roughly minced
- 4 medium size leaves of fresh basil chiffonade
- Kosher salt if needed
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1 TB (11 g) 3/4 oz / 11 g Dijon mustard
- Finely grated Pecorino Romano Cheese optional
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Garnish with fresh lemon thyme and torn basil leaves
Walnut Pie Dough
- 1/2 cup (2 oz / 58 g) 2 oz / 58 g walnuts
- 1 2/3 cups (7.25 oz / 208 g) All-purpose Flour, plus more for rolling
- 1 TB granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 4 oz 113 g cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (1 stick)
- 2 TB ice cold water more if needed
Walnut Pie Dough - Makes enough for one 9-inch (cm ) single crust pie or galette
Place the walnuts in a food processor and pulse until a fine and even crumble. Be careful to not over-process the nuts into walnut butter. Pour the walnuts into a mixing bowl and add the flour, sugar and Kosher salt. Mix the ingredients together with a wire whisk until evenly combined. Add the cold butter pieces to the flour mixture and toss to coat the butter with flour. Smush the butter with your fingers into the flour until you get a pebbly mixture of all different sizes. Add 2 TB of ice water and using your hands briefly toss to mix and form a ball. If the dough seems dry add more ice water, one tablespoon at a time.
Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour and place the dough ball on the surface. Starting at the upper edge of your dough, use the heel of your hand to press down and smear a portion of the dough away from you. Use only one motion per part. Continue to smear a portion of the dough away from you until you have worked your way through the ball of dough, about 4-5 smears. Gather the dough and form a disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days. The dough will keep in the freezer for 3 months.
When you are ready to bake, take the tart dough out of the refrigerator and allow it to rest for 10 minutes. This is also a good time to pre-heat your oven to 400°F (204°C). If you have a baking stone place it on a rack in the middle of the oven. Once rested, sprinkle your counter surface with flour and place the dough in the center. Whack the dough with a lightly floured rolling pin. Whack the dough moving from left to right to flatten it out. Turn the dough a quarter turn and whack 4 more times, moving across the disk from left to right. Turn the dough over and repeat 2 more times. Turn the dough over again and repeat. This process helps the dough to form a circle shape.
Roll out the dough with your rolling pin. Always starting at the center of the dough, place your rolling pin in the center and roll away from you. Turn the dough a quarter turn and roll across the dough beginning in the center and roll out. Repeat. Turn the dough over and roll out the dough until you have a 12-inch (30 cm) circle and the dough is about 1/4-inch (6 mm) thick. Dust the countertop with flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking.
Once you have completed rolling out your dough, place your rolling pin across the middle and lift and drape the dough in half over the rolling pin and towards you. Lift your pastry draped rolling pin across the center of a 9-inch (23 cm) tart pan with removable bottom, and unfold the dough over the pan. Lift the dough edges and ease the dough into place, carefully pressing the dough into the corners without stretching it. Trim the edge of the dough and fold over, into the tart pan to form a thicker tart side. Press the sides of the dough up against the side of the tart pan and even out the edge. Fix any cracks. You want the sides of the tart pastry to be even all around and not too thick. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Par-bake the walnut pie dough. Once the dough in the tart pan has chilled for 30 minutes, cover the dough with aluminum foil and make a well. The foil should be wider than the tart pan to lift the sides and remove it filled with the pie weights. Fill the interior of the foil well with pie weights or dried beans. Spread them out so they evenly cover the surface of the tart bottom. Place the tart pan on a sheet pan then place the whole thing on the middle rack or baking stone. Bake for 15 minutes then remove the aluminum foil with the pie weights off the tart shell and remove. Turn the heat down to 325°F (162°C) and continue baking for 20 minutes. You want to dry out the crust, but not let it get too brown. Reduce the heat to 300°F (149°C) if the crust edges start to get too dark. Remove from the oven and cool on a cooling rack for 15-20 minutes. Turn the oven temperature up to 375°F (190°C)
Meanwhile, while the dough is chilling for the first time (before you roll it out), mix together the minced garlic, sumac, ground colander, ground cumin, Kosher salt, and red pepper flakes into a small bowl.
Slice the tomatoes into thick slices across the middle about 1/4-inch (6 mm) thick. Set the tomato slices on a sheet pan in one layer. Sprinkle the seasoning evenly over the tomatoes and let it marinate for one hour.
In a small mixing bowl, stir until smooth and creamy the ricotta cheese, lemon zest, minced lemon thyme, and basil. Taste the ricotta. If your fresh ricotta is salty leave it alone. If you think it needs salt, add about 1/4 tsp Kosher salt and stir to combine. Set aside or refrigerate until needed.
While the par-baked tart shell is cooling, line a couple of plates with paper towels. Place the seasoned tomato slices on the paper towel lined plates, seasoned side facing up. Pour any tomato juices and seasoning into the bowl with the ricotta cheese and stir.
Once cooled baste a thin layer of Dijon mustard across the bottom of the tart pastry. If you are not a fan of mustard, baste a lightly beaten egg across the bottom of the tart.
Spread the ricotta cheese evenly over the mustard in the tart.
If using, sprinkle a light layer, about 1-2 TB, of Pecorino Romano cheese over the ricotta cheese.
Layer the tomato slices, seasoned side up, evenly around the tart in a decorative fashion. You will need to overlap each slice because they will shrink while baking. If you have large heirloom tomatoes, you might need to cut them in half to fit as many tomatoes as you can in the tart pan. Any leftover tomato slices you can eat for lunch or a delicious snack.
If using, lightly sprinkle Pecornio Romano cheese over the tomatoes, then drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the tomatoes.
Place the assembled tart on a sheet pan, then place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, then check to see if the crust is browning too dark. If the crust edge is browning too quickly, cover the rim with aluminum foil, but careful not to cover the tart filling. Continue baking, checking the tart every 10 minutes or less, when you get closer to the end. It could take around 50 minutes total time. The tart is done when the juices throughout the tart bubble, the tomatoes are shriveled, and the Romano cheese begins to brown on top. Also, when the crust has a nice golden-brown color.
Remove the tart from the oven and cool on a cooling rack for 20 minutes.
Remove the tart pan rim. Carefully place the tart on top of a large can of tomatoes or other can or bowl with a secure flat top. Carefully hold the pan rim and slide it down off the tart. Place the tart on a cooling rack and continue to cool. When cool use a wide spatula to help slide the tart off the bottom portion of the tart pan. (Or you can leave it alone if you don't want to take any chances). Garnish right before serving with fresh lemon thyme and born fresh basil leaves.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Best eaten the day it is made.
Sumac is the ground berries from a Sumac bush. It has a slightly bitter taste and a popular seasoning in Mediterranean cuisine. There is no great substitute to resemble it. If you do not have it, or cannot get it. Sprinkle finely grated lemon zest over the tomatoes when it is done baking.
If you do not own a tart pan, you can make this tart a galette. However, there are some changes in the preparation and baking. There is no need to par-bake the dough. After rolling out the dough, Move the dough to a sheet pan covered with parchment paper. Arrange the tart ingredients over the pastry dough in the same order as in the instructions, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold the rim of the dough over the ingredients and pleat to seal. Refrigerate the galette for 30 minutes. Brush the dough with melted butter, olive oil, or egg wash and bake, following the instructions above.
Some Mediterranean spices are easily available at your grocery store. Kalustayan’s in New York City is a very reliable store for all kinds of spices and food items. You and buy online or in person. Click here for Aleppo Pepper, and Sumac.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.