Thursday, August 2, 2007

Arugula & Fried Mozzarella Salad with Tomato-Basil Vinaigrette

In this satisfying salad, cheese is battered with egg and breadcrumbs before being fried into warm, crispy-gooey slices. The slight bitterness of the arugula is the perfect foil for the melty, rich fried mozarella. Smoked mozzarella is divine and adds depth to the salad, but regular mozzarella will make a delicious salad, too. Be sure to coat the cheese slices thoroughly so they don’t ooze during cooking.


1 large (about 7 ounces) smoked mozzarella
1 large egg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 1/2 cups medium diced fresh tomatoes
1/3 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 medium clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
5 ounces baby arugula, washed and dried


Slice the mozzarella into eight slices, then again in half crosswise, so you have 16 pieces of cheese. Whisk the egg in a medium bowl with a pinch of salt and pepper. Put the breadcrumbs in another medium bowl. Working with a few pieces at a time, dip the cheese in the egg, turning to coat all sides of the cheese. Dredge the cheese in the breadcrumbs, pressing to help the crumbs adhere and cover the cheese as much as possible. Transfer the breaded cheese slices to a plate and refrigerate until ready to cook. You can prepare the cheese up to 1 hour ahead. Discard any leftover egg and crumbs.

In a small bowl, combine the tomatoes, basil, and garlic and season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper. Let this sit for 5 minutes, then add 1/4 cup of the oil and the vinegar.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Put half the cheese in the pan and cook until the breadcrumbs turn golden, 30 to 60 seconds. Use two forks to turn the cheese and cook until the second side is golden, another 30 to 60 seconds. Transfer to a plate. Using the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil, repeat with the second batch of cheese.

Put the arugula in a large bowl. Stir the tomato mixture and toss it with the arugula. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Portion the salad among four plates. Arrange four pieces of cheese on top of each salad and serve immediately. -- Eva Katz

Reprinted from Fine Cooking Annual by the Editors of Fine Cooking with permission from The Taunton Press. Photography by Scott Phillips.


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