Saturday, April 30, 2011

Kitchen Chemistry: Caprese Salad Hor D'oeuvre

I love caprese salad and while I know it is not yet tomato season here, it will be soon and I just can't wait. In the meantime, cherry tomatoes are pretty sweet and the perfect bite size!

So I came up with this beauty for cocktail parties and hor D'oeuvres and as a bonus, but no picture (I know I really should remember to take them more often) a second variation of the recipe as well. Both are surprisingly simple and they really make an impression on your guests.

Caprese Salad with Balsamic Gel
-1cup port wine or Madeira
-2 cups balsamic vinegar (don't break into the $100 bottle stuff for this, just use mid quality super market brand the port or Madeira will sweeten it considerably)
-1 tsp Agar Agar powder
-Cherry tomatoes
-Fresh Basil leaves
-Buffalo Mozzarella or bocincinni
-Skewers or cocktail sticks

  • Prepare a small pan, with a lining of plastic wrap. I like to actually use a 8 inch cake pan I find it comes out with the depth for the gel
  • Place the Madeira and balsamic together in a heavy bottom sauce pan and reduce by half on just barely a simmer
  • Sprinkle in the agar agar powder, stir well and simmer for about one minute. Do not let it boil.
  • Let the balsamic cool for a minute or two then pour it into your prepared mold. The great thing about agar agar is that it will actually set up at room temperature and it will set up faster than gelatin.
  • Once set, cut into small cubes for use.
The rest of the hor d'oeuvre is very simple. Half your cherry tomatoes and put them on a skewer, add on a small cube of buffalo mozzarella. 
Take a basil leaf if it's very large cut it in half down the center vein, fold it and place it on the skewer, top with the cube of balsamic gel.
Remember you want to keep these one bite so all the flavours come together in the mouth. 

The second variation on this recipe will make use of Soy Lethicin powder.

Caprese Salad with Basil Cloud 
-1 bunch Basil a few leaves reserved.
-1/2 cup water
-1/2 cup milk (not skim)
-3g soy lethicin powder
-Cherry tomatos
-Buffalo mozzarella
-Balsamic vinegar (use a good one for this, you won't need too much)
-Skewers or cocktail sticks
  • Place basil, milk and water in a blender and blitz it up. Pass it though a fine mess strainer or cheesecloth
  • Add the soy lethicin and using an immersion blender, incorporate it. Set aside while you prepare the rest.
  • Half the cherry tomatoes and hallow them out.
  • Cube the mozzarella so that it will be the right size to fit inside your hallowed out tomatoes. Now place them in a baggie with a bit of balsamic vinegar and the minced reserved basil leaves. Let those marinate for at least 15minutes.
  • To assemble: Place your prepared tomato on the skewer and nestle the marinated mozzarella inside. Make sure you have all of your skewers prepared like this before you move on to the next step.
  • To make your basil air, take your immersion blender and working from the top of the liquid down, incorporate air. Alternatively you can tilt your bowl or container so that you are working with a shallow amount of the liquid to create -a lot- of bubbles. You'll find now that the bubbles do not break up.
  • Scoop up the bubbles gently with a spoon and place them on top of your prepared skewer and serve!
Agar Agar is a seaweed derived gelling agent, you can find it in most health food stores or Asian markets.
Soy lethicin came as part of a molecular gastronomy kit I have, however locally I believe I've seen it available at Bulk Barn food stores.

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