If you had lived in Zurich for long enough, you will have quickly learnt that if the sun is out, you have to leave home and in enjoy it while it is there. God only knows when you will be able to enjoy again walking down the street without having to resort to several layers of clothing. It could be next day, but it can also be in a week, in a month or next year (if ever!). This Summer, it was even more extreme than usual. After a few weeks of sheer desperation, we found ourselves enjoying each quasi-summer day like it was the last one. And, many times it seemed like that indeed it was, and that we all would be condemned to an existence plagued with cashmere cardigans, heavy scarfs and thick stockings…. So, in a nutshell – there was not really a lot of opportunities for cool dishes. Except, maybe this one, from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty. An italian classic, converted into a ubiquitous dish:tomato-mozzarella-basil dictatorship. But, this one has a twist – roasted fennel seeds – which makes it outstanding. Not the usual watered stuff you get so often here in Zurich…
Marinated mozzarella and tomato (adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty)
For the salad
- 250g mozzarella (use buffalo mozzarella for best results)
- 4 ripe tomatoes, cut in wedges
For the marinade
- 1/2 tablespoon of crushed roasted fennel seeds
- grated zest of 1 lemon
- 15 basil leafs shredded
- 2 tablespoons of chopped oregano
- olive oil to taste (or a mix 1:1 of olive oil and rapeseed oil)
- 1 garlic clove crushed
- salt and pepper to taste
For the marinade
First, put the fennel seeds in a small frying pan and heat until they start to pop. Drop them in a mortar and grind them until you have a chunky powder.
Combine all the marinade ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Drop in the shredded mozzarella (shred the cheese and the basil with your hands, for an extra touch of rusticity).
Set aside for a about 20min
For the salad
In a plate, put the marinated cheese and the tomatoes side by side. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil, if necessary and serve.
Pizza – enough said. For a quick meal and trying to keep the 11-year-old happy, I gave a go to the pizza Margherita recipe George Calombaris demonstrated during a Masterchef Australia’s Masterclass. A classic combination, which was as named after the Italian queen who first tried (and loved) the tomato, mozzarella and basil in a pizza bread.
To cook this pizza, I took a short cut that is generally a no-no for a high-class number, and used already-made dough. But, if you feel you have bake your own pizza dough, here is an recipe, also from Masterchef Australia. Also, instead of sticking to pizza sauce, I just took a jar of tomatada [Portuguese style tomato sauce] I had sitting in the fridge and put it to good use.
George and Gary (Mehigan) have another trick to bake a crispy dough for the perfect pizza. To distribute the heat evenly across the pizza base and to extract the moisture, place an unglazed terracotta tile into an oven and heat to 250°C. (I didn’t – if only I knew where to find terracota tiles in Zurich which doesn’t cost the equivalent of a 100g of white truffle).
Classic Pizza Margherita
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 medium yellow onions cut in half lengthwise and sliced into thin half moons
- 2 springs fresh flat leaf parsley
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 garlic gloves minced
- 1 kg very ripped tomatoes, seeded and chopped* (or a couple of canned tomato, preferably san marzano, chopped, juices reserved).
- 2 to 3 tablespoons of double concentrated tomato paste, to taste
- 1 small fresh medium red hot chilli pepper, such as Serrano, stemmed, seeded and chopped (it is optional. Sometimes, I just add a few drops of piri piri sauce).
- Freshly grounded salt and black pepper to taste.
- 1 x 120g pizza dough portion (I use already-made pizza dough)
- Plain flour, for dusting
3 tbs pizza sauceTomato sauce to cover the base
- 1 tbs baby capers, rinsed and drained
- 6-8 large basil leaves
- 9 halved oven-roasted cherry tomatoes
- 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 50g buffalo mozzarella, torn
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until it shimmer. Add the onions, parsley and bay leaf and cook until nicely golden, about 15min. Add the garlic and cook for 1 min more.
Turn the heat to medium low, stir in the tomatoes and their juices, the tomato paste and chilli pepper, if using. Bring to a simmer, cook, lid ajar, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, about 30min
Toss out the parsley and bay lead and season with salt and pepper. If you wish, you can scrape the sauce into a food processor and buzz until smooth. Store the sauce in the fridge in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid for up to 1 week. It can also be frozen for up to 2 months.
On a floured wooden paddle or piece of baking paper, stretch out the dough into a long oval shape about 30cm long and 10-15cm wide, or to desired shape and thickness.
Spread the tomato sauce over the dough, sprinkle with baby capers and scatter over basil leaves. Place cherry tomatoes on top and drizzle with olive oil.
Slide the pizza into the stove and bake for about 5 minutes or until golden and crisp.
Brush the crust with olive oil and scatter mozzarella over pizza.