On our recent trip to Rome, we stopped off at Obika Mozzarella bar for lunch and had a lovely tomato salad served on top of friselle bread that was spread with nduja. Friselle is a double baked crisp bread that looks similar to a bagel in size and shape often served in southern Italy topped with tomatoes. Nduja is a spreadable spicy pork spread made in Calabria that has quickly become a favorite ingredient in our home so I was very intrigued to try this dish. Because the restaurant is famous for it’s mozzarella and cheeses, the salad was also topped with creamy threads of burrata to finish it off. If you have never tasted burrata, it is a fresh Italian cheese, made from mozzarella and cream. Think of a soft outer shell of mozzarella covering a creamy center that contains both mozzarella and cream. Now I am very lucky living here in Umbria at this point that I can easily buy jars of nduja, or balls of creamy burrata at my local grocery store. I know Burrata cheese is now available in North America in many places as our local Whole Foods in Florida even sells it. If you are unable to obtain the burrata though, you could substitute either a top quality fresh mozzarella, or even better a buffalo milk mozzarella cut into cubes.
After enjoying this salad in Rome, I decided I had to replicate it at home with a few minor changes. I actually found the friselle used at Obika to be much too hard to cut into, so I initially tried to soften my friselle at home first with some water and vinegar. I still found the friselle too firm so the next time I made it I made this dish I used two slices of grilled day old crusty bread and found it was a perfect compromise. After adding a few other ingredients, by my second attempt I was very happy with my salad that I think is sort of a deconstructed panzanella salad on steroids. Now I honestly cannot think of a substitute for nduja if you cannot find it at an Italian specialty store but the salad would be delicious without it as well. Like I constantly say (nag?), you really need to use good ingredients for the best results for this dish, so do choose sweet, ripe cherry tomatoes from your local farmer’s market, and buy the best cheese you can afford whether it is burrata, buffalo mozzarella, or just a good quality fresh mozzarella. Pickled caper berries can be found in many grocery stores and taste similar to capers but are a little milder in flavor. I keep a bottle of aged balsamic vinegar on hand for dishes such as this, but you now can find an inexpensive balsamic reduction at many stores if aged balsamic is out of your budget.
Deborah Mele 2011
- 8 Slices Day Old Crusty Italian Bread
- 1 (3 Ounce) Jar Nduja (Optional)
- 5 Cups Ripe Cherry Tomatoes, Halved
- 1/2 Cup Drained Pickled Caper Berries
- 1 Medium Sweet Onion Thinly Sliced
- 1 Large Ball Burrata Cheese (Or Substitute Mozzarella ~ See Note Above)
- 1/4 Cup Fresh Small Basil Leaves (Or Same Amount Finely Sliced Large Leaves)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Red Wine Vinegar
- Salt & Pepper
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Aged Balsamic Vinegar
- Preheat your broiler, and brown both sides of the bread slices until they are lightly browned.
- Spread one side of each bread slice with 1 to 1/2 tablespoons nduja spread if using.
- Arrange two bread slices on each of four plates.
- In a bowl toss together the tomatoes, onions, caper berries, and basil leaves.
- Dress with about three tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon of red wine vinegar.
- Season with salt and pepper and lightly toss.
- Arrange the tomato mixture over the bread slices equally on each of the plates.
- Drizzle with any remaining dressing left in the bowl.
- Divide the cheese into four pieces and slice thinly.
- Arrange the cheese on top of the tomatoes.
- Drizzle each plate with a little additional extra virgin olive oil, and some aged balsamic vinegar.
- Serve immediately.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 2 slices
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 197 Total Fat: 11g Saturated Fat: 3g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 7g Cholesterol: 11mg Sodium: 258mg Carbohydrates: 21g Fiber: 5g Sugar: 12g Protein: 6g