Buffalo mozzarella has to be one of my all time favourite things to eat. Fresh, clean, silky and light, sublime in the company of ripe tomatoes and basil leaves. The classic caprese salad (although there’s some clever variations on the caprese here). But what can you pair this beautiful cheese with to make a mozzarella salad in winter, when tomatoes are sad representations of their summer counterparts. Celery, walnuts, garlic and chilli. That’s what. And unlike the caprese, this mozzarella salad can be made ahead of time, which when entertaining can be a very useful thing.
Inviting friends around to share a meal is one of my favourite weekend activities. And recipes that can be prepared in advance are essential on such occasions, allowing for more time to relax and socialise, and less time in the kitchen. That’s why this mozzarella salad is so good. The cheese can bathe in its delicious marinade for a day or so before you plan to serve it, leisurly taking on the flavours of garlic and chilli. Likewise, the walnuts can be toasted and chopped and the celery sliced, hours beforehand, so all that needs to be done prior to sitting down to eat, is to simply assemble the salad.
I realise that cooking in this pre prepared way may not be in alignment with everyone’s personalities and that some people are more inclined to leave things until the last moment. Take my Scottish friend (she knows who she is) for example, who at university would stay up writing until 8am to meet a nine o’ clock assessment deadline. The very thought of this still makes me feel on edge. Last minute is just not something I’m good at. And although in the world of food there are a lot of things that need to be done at the last minute, like dressing delicate salad leaves and serving a soufflé, a great many tasks can be done early on.
Preparing food this way takes the stress out of cooking, yet still allows you to present a beautiful spread. It also leaves room for unforeseen events, like discovering you’ve forgotten to buy a crucial ingredient, that one of your guests hates cheese or that your toddler has just drawn all over the walls with a wax crayon that you missed when packing up her toys.
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
- 20 grinds of black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
- 1 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced
- 6 celery stalks, thinly sliced
- bunch chives, snipped
- 200g walnut pieces, toasted and roughly chopped
Begin by placing the sliced garlic and chilli flakes in a small pan with the oil. Heat over a low heat for 10 minutes to allow the oil to take on the flavours of the garlic and chilli.
Cut the balls of mozzarella in half and then slice each half into 4-5 semi circle slices. Put the slices into container that will hold them and the garlic marinade.
When the oil is completely cool, pour it over the mozzarella slices along with the salt and pepper and delicately stir the cheese so that it’s completely coated with all the other ingredients. Leave in the fridge for the flavours to mingle for at least 2 hours but ideally overnight.
About 30 minutes before you want to assemble the mozzarella salad, remove the cheese from the fridge so that it can come to room temperature, then simply drain the mozzarella of its marinade and arrange it on a platter. Scatter first the celery, then chives and then the walnuts over the top and tuck in.
Like preparing things ahead of time? Then you might like this kale salad