Tomato Bisque with Crispy Mozzarella Cubes

Tomato Bisque | Pinky's Pantr
Today was a scary day at work. I arrived at the office to be greeted with the news that our Vice President had called an impromptu “Organizational Announcement” meeting. Everyone was to report to the meeting at 9 a.m. sharp. The VP’s announcement was that they were going to be outsourcing some of our jobs and some people would be laid off at the end of this year. So sad. It’s hard to understand the business decision to cut costs by sending our work abroad, but it’s harder to accept when good, hardworking employees of long standing are laid off without a qualm. I’m one of the lucky ones who gets to keep her job but my heart breaks for my friends who don’t.

I think comfort food is called for tonight. And what could be more comforting than a yummy bowl of tomato soup? Add a grilled cheese sandwich and you’re instantly transported back to those carefree childhood days when it seemed like nothing could go wrong. This soup is delicious and very easy to make. Instead of grilled cheese sandwiches, I gave it a different touch by making Crispy Mozzarella Cubes to serve with it. Yum! Now if only the job situation at work were as easy to fix. Sigh…..

TOMATO BISQUE

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes in puree
  • 1½ cups chicken broth
  • 3 tbsp. honey
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper, to taste (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (optional)
  1. In a medium pot, heat the oil.
  2. Add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until translucent.
  3. Add the garlic and thyme, stirring until fragrant.
  4. Add the tomatoes, broth, and honey, and stir together well.
  5. Season with salt and pepper if desired, and bring to a boil over high heat.
  6. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  7. Remove and discard thyme sprigs.
  8. Puree soup with an immersion blender. If you want it chunky, puree only half the soup.
  9. Stir in the cream, adjust the seasonings, and continue to cook for another minute or two.
  10. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with parsley, if desired.

CRISPY MOZZARELLA CUBES

  • 1 block of mozzarella cheese (size depends on how many cubes you want to make)
  • flour
  • egg
  • panko bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Heat 2 inches of canola oil in a deep frying pan on the stove.
  2. Cut mozzarella cheese into cubes as small or large as you like. I like a good-sized cube so I cut them about 1½ inches big.
  3. Place about 1 cup flour in a pie plate and season lightly with a little salt and pepper.
  4. Beat 1 egg in a shallow bowl and season lightly with a little more salt and pepper.
  5. Place about 1 cup panko bread crumbs in another pie plate.
  6. Take a mozzarella cube and coat it first in flour, then egg, and finally bread crumbs. Repeat with remaining cubes. If you run out of flour or bread crumbs, just add more, and beat another egg if you need to.
  7. Carefully drop each coated mozzarella cube into hot oil.
  8. Deep fry until golden brown.
  9. Transfer briefly to paper towel lined plate to drain.
  10. Serve hot.

Insalata di Caprese (Caprese Salad)

Insalata Caprese | Pinky's PantryInsalata di Caprese (or Capri-style salad) is a simple and refreshing salad made with just three basic ingredients – tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil. It epitomizes the healthy, fresh flavors of Mediterranean cuisine. It’s great served as a starter course or as an accompaniment to grilled chicken or fish.

I don’t have any measurements for the ingredients to this salad. You don’t really need them. Just slice however many tomatoes you want to serve, then make sure you have an equal number of slices of mozzarella cheese and basil leaves so you can layer or stack them. Easy, quick and delicious, especially when you use fresh, juicy, homegrown tomatoes.

I love making this salad with a balsamic reduction which I make myself. If you don’t want to make the balsamic reduction, you could just use a nice balsamic vinegar. But try the reduction, if you can. Believe me, it’ll elevate your salad to new heights!

INSALATA DI CAPRESE

  • fresh homegrown or vine-ripened tomatoes
  • fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese
  • large, whole fresh basil leaves
  • good olive oil
  • balsamic reduction or balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  1. Slice the tomatoes crosswise into 1/4-inch thick rounds.
  2. Slice the buffalo mozzarella cheese into 1/4-inch thick slices.
  3. Lay the tomato slices on a big platter. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper.
  4. Alternate each tomato slice with a slice of mozzarella and a basil leaf. You could also make stacks of tomato, mozzarella and basil, if you prefer.
  5. Drizzle olive oil over everything, then drizzle with balsamic reduction.
  6. Let rest at least 10 minutes before serving to give the flavors time to meld.

NOTE:  You could also make a Mini Caprese Salad using grape or cherry tomatoes and little bocconcini mozzarella as pictured below. Just cut the tomatoes and the bocconcini in half, julienne the fresh basil leaves, and toss everything together with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Don’t forget to season with a little salt and pepper.
Caprese Salad | Pinky's Pantry