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Balsamico Magnifico!

Berkshire Kitchen

Balsamico Magnifico!

by Jane Worthington-Roth

You may have seen the recent barrage of photographs of caprese salad that is composed to look like ladybugs. Ladybugs. The bane of homes throughout the Berkshires in springtime have somehow evolved into the hottest appetizer trend. I don't know where these cute little creations originated but they definitely bring a smile to the dinner table from both young and old alike. I love whimsical presentations!
 
The ingredients are simple and the recipe is very easy - until you come to the ladybugs' "spots". Most recipes call for you to use a "thick balsamic vinegar" to put the spots on the ladybug backs, but I have a couple of problems with that part. Really "thick" balsamic (dessert quality) is extremely cost-prohibitive and not generally a staple in most pantries. Also, if you do happen to have a bottle of thick-syrupy sweet balsamic, the vinegar seems to run off the backs of the ladybugs - not a pretty sight!
 
I came up with an easy solution. It is easy to make the perfect thick balsamic by combining two parts balsamic vinegar to one part cornstarch then heating gently while stirring. Watch the process carefully as the balsamic will thicken immediately.  The balsamic congeals into the perfect consistency for dotting the ladybug backs. And if you have some leftover, smear a little on a sandwich. The intense flavor of balsamic in a gel-like consistency will become your new favorite condiment!
 
The Ladybug Caprese will taste delicious no matter how they look but, if you want to make them look as perfect as possible, try to make the sizes consistent. For instance, if the mozzarella pieces are all cut to the same size, the end result will be more visually spectacular.
 
It's best to use tomatoes that have been sitting at room temperature. Tomatoes that have been chilled may form condensation, making the, difficult to dot with the balsamic.

>Slice 6 grape (or cherry) tomatoes in half, lengthwise.

>Nip a little off the stem end to leave room for the "head".

>Gently slice through the bald half of the skin of the tomato to form "wings".

>Trim a piece of pitted kalamata olive to fit as the head.

>For each, position a slice of mozzarella on a serving plate. Top with a single basil leaf.

>Position a tomato (body) and kalamata (head) on each basil leaf.

>Using a flat toothpick or thin chopstick, put about 6 little dots on each ladybug.

>After bringing to the table, drizzle some delicious fruity extra virgin olive oil between the mozzarella slices.

>These are easiest to serve with a flat spatula or pie server.



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