When temperatures soar and we’re in the waning dog days of summer, it’s time to reach for dishes that are crisp, cool, and fresh. Enter brined mozzarella: while it may not be crisp, it definitely fits into the “cool and fresh” category. And like all fresh cheeses — as opposed to aged cheeses, which tend to be more sharply flavorful — mozzarella balls are also beat-the-heat creamy and just a little bit sweet. These miniature versions are even cuter and more salad-friendly than their larger cousins, but if you can’t find these ultra-petite mozzarella balls, you can cut larger ones in half or in quarters.
I opted to include salty olives to contrast against the mozzarella’s sweet creaminess, plus roasted tomatoes to add a pronounced sweet/tart aspect. Or you could opt for sun-dried tomatoes — like their roasted cousins, they’re also incredibly flavorful. Just be sure to soak them in very hot water for at least 10 minutes to soften them. (Unsoftened sun-dried tomatoes are a bit leathery.) Roasted peppers would add a nice flavor, too, if you have some on hand.
Herbed Salad with Roasted Tomatoes & Mini-Mozzarella Balls
You can make a large bowl of salad or a single serving — just take a look at the ingredients and use more of less of whatever you like best.
Several handfuls fresh lettuce of your choice (I snipped off some leaves from the ever-self-replenishing lettuce I planted in various spots around my yard)
Fresh basil leaves
Fresh chives, snipped into small pieces
Roasted tomatoes OR sun-dried tomatoes that have been soaked in very hot water for at least 10 minutes
Several pitted olives of your choice, chopped (I adore castelvetrano and green Niçoise olives, but choose your favorites), chopped
Miniature mozzarella balls in brine, drained
Extra-virgin olive oil
Gently toss lettuce with basil, chives, tomatoes, olives, and mozzarella, either leaving the basil leaves whole or cutting them into thin strips at the very last minute. (Basil oxidizes and turns black very quickly when cut.) Drizzle with a splash of oil and another splash of vinegar, figuring on about 2 teaspoons of oil and 1 of vinegar per person. Serve immediately.
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