Looking for the perfect game day snack? How about warm and yummy Fried Mozzarella Sticks. For some reason, I always thought these to be a daunting task until I served them at several Christmas occasions that we catered. In reality, they were quite simple and fun, even when serving for twenty-five guests. I decided to try a gluten-free version so that everyone could enjoy them. They came out more golden and beautiful than the regular ones! Take time to prep them well and give them a good freeze and you’ll be happy with the results. (See tip below for other uses for this recipe.) For that next Big Game, consider trying these out with your favorite marinara sauce.
Cut mozzarella into 3 x½" pieces. Place gluten-free flour in a shallow dish and add some salt and pepper to season. Whisk eggs and milk in another shallow dish. Put 1/2 gluten-free breadcrumbs (or panko) in a third shallow dish (refilling dish as needed with crumbs).
Working with one piece of mozzarella at a time, dredge in flour, shaking off excess. Dip in egg mixture, then coat in breadcrumbs, pressing to adhere. (Tip: Keep one hand clean to transfer from one dish to the next to avoid clumping or keep a bowl of water handy to dip into a bowl between dipping) Repeat steps for a second coating. Transfer to a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining mozzarella. Transfer rack with mozzarella to freezer and freeze at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
Using a fry-daddy or a large pot pour in oil to come 2" up sides. Heat over medium-high until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350°. Working in batches (don't overcrowd the pan!), fry mozzarella, occasionally turning, until golden brown and crisp, 2–2½ minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt while still hot. Serve with Marinara Sauce.
**Tip: This is a basic "dredging" technique that can be used for chicken, veal or pork cutlets as well. Simply follow the same steps going from seasoned flour to egg/milk mixture to panko or bread crumbs and fry. Delicious!
As Sr.Irene mentioned last week, our gardens are just starting to burst with vegetables. This week brought in fava beans and my mom gave us a beautiful basket of her home grown kohlrabi (which immediately sent me “Google-ing” for recipes!). But the majority of our yield so far has been zucchini and yellow squash. Time to be creative with recipes!
It’s a tradition in our Convent for Sunday night dinner to be prepared by the Sisters who share a common bedroom. Our rooms sleep 6-8 sisters. We usually choose our room by lot and switch up every once in a while. That means, there is a mix of personalities and gifts in each room; younger sisters with older ones, cooks with calligraphers, night owls and early birds. Our biggest crosses can become our greatest blessings. We live in Community and that’s how we roll!
Enjoy this crispy and flavorful panini prepared by our Sunday night Sister chefs. A healthy and fun twist on the favorite BLT, this recipe subs out cold lettuce for a piece of grilled zucchini. Enjoy!
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"BZT" Panini with Mozzarella, Bacon, Grilled Zucchini, and Tomato
In a large skillet, fry bacon over medium-high heat until golden and crispy, 6 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
On a baking sheet, brush zucchini strips with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake in a 350 degree oven until golden.
Lay tomato slices on a paper towel-lined baking sheet to soak up liquid.
Place ciabatta halves on a cutting board. Brush insides of loaf with olive oil. Layer bottom half with zucchini strips, bacon, mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Top with other half ciabatta. Halve loaf and brush outside with olive oil.
Preheat a panini press. (If you don’t have a panini press, cook sandwich in a large skillet over medium-high heat with a heavy pot or pan on top to weigh it down; flip sandwich halfway through to make sure both sides get cooked evenly.) Place half of sandwich in panini grill and cook, pressing down from time to time, until golden and cheese is melty, 6 to 8 minutes.
Repeat with remaining sandwich half, then serve cut into triangles.
This is the time of year when Eggplants are bountiful.. at least in our garden. I find it funny that you either love eggplant or you hate it. During my time at Villa Via Sacra, one of the Brothers told me that he had his whole birthday menu ready for me… 2 months early! It included his favorite dish, Eggplant Parmigiana – I wasn’t surprised. This Brother, like me, has a real appreciation for good food, cooked well. Every time I made the dish, his eyes would practically well up with tears, he loved it that much. So, I figured EVERYONE would like my eggplant parmigiana and took great pride in making the dish. But, visas expired and we had a new rotation of Brothers from our community at the Villa. I thought I’d make them this special dish for their first night in Italy, and was expectant to hear the “oooo’s” and “aahh’s” emanating from them. One of the new Brothers walked into the kitchen and asked what was for dinner. I tightened my apron strings, smoothed out the wrinkles, stood a little taller and declared “My eggplant parmigiana!”
The brother blanched before me, his usual sunny disposition turned to stone, the room went quiet. He HATED Eggplant. I was devastated, my ego deflated; this was going to be a long three months…
Italians love the concept of involtini… something filled and rolled up. I love it too. The time it takes to make this recipe is minimal, and the presentation is delightful, especially if you take the time to wrap each eggplant with a chive before baking. I didn’t have the chives on hand when making this dish for the family, but I still thought the simplicity was beautiful and a different ‘take’ on “eggplant parmigiana”.
P.S. – this Brother became an eggplant lover and I learned more about the meaning of pride!
Preheat the oven to 400* F. Oil a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Place the eggplant slices on the pan and brush on both sides with 4 Tbsp. of the olive oil. Sprinkle on the oregano, salt, and pepper. Bake for 10 minutes, turning once. They will then be supple and slightly golden.
While the eggplant is in the oven, make a simple tomato sauce by whirring the tomatoes briefly in a food processor or break up with your hands. In a skillet, over low heat, sauté the onion for another minute in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in the tomatoes and cook the mixture briefly, just to blend flavors, about 2 minutes.
Remove the eggplant from the oven. Lower the oven temperature to 350*F.
On each eggplant piece, place a piece of prosciutto or ham, a whole basil leaf, a slice of cheese and a sprinkling of Parmigiano. Roll pieces from the small end forward, and secure the bundle with a toothpick or tie a chive around it.
Slather the bottom of a 9x13” baking dish with some of the tomato sauce, and arrange the involtini seam-side down. Over each bundle spread some more tomato sauce and a scattering of the Parmigiano. Warm well in the oven, about 15 min. Andiamo mangiare!
Recipe adapted from Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes