The day after Madeline‘s trip to the hospital last week, my mom watched her for a bit so I could escape to the store and shore up on a few much needed groceries. By that time it had been a few days since I had left the house, and rations (milk! medicine!) were getting low. While I was there, I wanted to pick up something simple for an easy dinner that night and poked around the pre-made stuff that they make in-store. We haven’t had stuffed shells in ages, so I grabbed a package, and added garlic bread and fresh mozzarella.
The shells? Well, suffice it to say they were the blandest thing I have eaten since the hospital food I had when I had Madeline a year ago. No amount of doctoring could have saved them, and I’ll know to skip them the next time I want a shortcut. Some shortcuts just ain’t worth it. Now for the fresh mozzarella, I took a page, literally and figuratively, from Sandra Lee, the Queen of Semi-Homemade. Normally I don’t gravitate towards her recipes, but this one didn’t use as much in the way of processed items as her usual fare does.
You know those marinated balls of mozzarella you can buy at the store? Well this recipe is to basically make those, saving you a little bit of extra money, because if you buy them already done at the store, they tend to get a little bit pricey. And these days, quite frankly, every penny counts. Really. When I bought the mozzarella, I also grabbed a chunk of soppressatta, since I know the boys love the stuff, and I thought it would plate nicely with the marinated cheese.
The mozzarella took just a few minutes to pull together and was a nice, simple starter to our throw-together Italian dinner, and perhaps the saving grace given the stuffed shells disaster. It would make a great starter for a dinner party … add a few fancy little mini-skewers or toothpicks for spearing the balls, and you’re on your way to easy appetizer prep. The only change I would make next time is to use a smidge less lemon juice, otherwise, perfect. Sandra Lee, who knew?
Nick gets credit for the second picture. Now any time he sees me taking a picture of food, he asks for a turn too. He thinks carefully about how to arrange the background and the plate and takes different shots at different angles. He’s getting quite good at it actually, and it’s only fair he gets his due.
Marinated Mozzarella Balls
Recipe courtesy of Sandra Lee’s Semi-Homemade magazine
Makes about 12 servings
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (halve next time)
2 teaspoons parsley herb blend, Gourmet Garden (I used regular dried parsley)
2 teaspoons basil herb blend, Gourmet Garden (I used regular dried basil, although fresh would be great too)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (8 oz) container fresh small mozzarella balls, drained
In a medium bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley blend, basil blend, and red pepper. Add mozzarella, and stir gently to combine.
Cate’s Note: There is a recipe note that says that you can store this in the refrigerator for up to a week. Um, have you ever put olive oil in the fridge? Yuck. It gets all congealed. No thank you. If you have some leftover, try draining the olive oil as best as you can.