Fun appetizers with mozzarella and basil

_MAL1239.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Late last summer, I made a nice Caprese salad for Janaki when she came over for a visit. I took a photo but didn’t get around to posting it until yesterday. When I’m in Italy, Caprese salad is the yardstick I use to gauge the priciness of a restaurant. The ingredients of the salad are readily available and relatively inexpensive, and the preparation is straightforward and quick; so the price a restaurant charges for the dish largely represents the markup—not the cost of the food per se, but what you must pay for the privilege of dining at that particular establishment.

The distribution of prices is broad. I’ve seen Insalata Caprese listed on menus in Rome for as little as 5€, and as much as 20€.

_MAL9505.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Another great mozzarella-based appetizer substitutes dried ham for the tomato. Just take thumb tip-sized pieces of the cheese and roll them up together with couple of basil leaves in thin strips of the ham. Use air-dried or smoked ham, according to your preference. Prosciutto and Westphalia work fine. Hold the rolls together by piercing each one with a cocktail toothpick. Serve them with a small bowl of olive oil seasoned with salt, black pepper, and optionally rosemary or oregano. Enjoy!

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