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Born out of the break-up of seminal ska band The Beat (or English Beat as we know them in the States), Fine Young Cannibals merge a 60’s soul sound and beat with a decidedly 80’s new wave feel. The logical evolution of the Northern UK history with soul, ska, and pop, it’s a shame they released only two albums. While their self-titled debut was great, The Raw And The Cooked is where they really came into their own. Roland Gift sings in a plaintive falsetto over brilliantly crafted pop melodies that, while clearly of the 80’s new wave scene, sound like they came from the Motown ’60s in an alternate dimension. I’m planning a Music & Food issue or event based around this album, but here’s a recipe inspired by one of my favorite FYC tracks.
When I first moved to Brooklyn, I was lucky enough to live down the block from Caputo’s Fine Foods. I had never experienced a true old-school Italian market before Caputo’s. A dazzling array of olive oil, vinegar, fresh bread, cheeses, and salumi. A paradise of Italian cooking needs.
It was the fresh mozzarella, though, that kept me returning every couple of days. I do not remember actually buying fresh mozzarella before discovering Caputo’s. Or perhaps the experience of choosing a fresh still warm ball of cheese brought out in the pan by the cheesemaker has wiped all previous memories. My fresh mozzarella history is B.C. / A.C.
I have not been back to Caputo’s since I left that area, but my love of great creamy fresh mozzarella has not waned. I believe fresh mozzarella should be eaten lightly chilled or at room temperature. Never cold or melty hot. I am not a fan of fresh mozzarella on pizza. I feel it is too watery for a pizza topping and the heat from the pizza destroys that creamy fresh milk taste.
My preferred fresh mozzarella dish is the caprese. This is a beautifully simple appetizer dish easily ruined with cheap cheese, low-quality tomatoes or too much seasoning/dressing. Keep it simple: a few slices of high-quality very fresh mozzarella, ripe tomatoes (I prefer plum but also love a good heirloom), and crisp fresh basil finished with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic and sprinkled with sea salt. Perfection on a plate. Now slide that whole plate onto a couple of slices of hearty sourdough bread and you have a great simple vegetarian sandwich for a lazy summer afternoon.
SHE DRIVES ME CAPRESE
Fresh mozzarella, plum tomato, fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil on toasted sourdough
Makes 1 sandwich
4 slices fresh mozzarella, 1/4” thick
4 slices plum tomato, 1/4” thick
6-8 basil leaves
2 slices sourdough bread, toasted
Aleppo pepper flakes
Drizzle balsamic and olive oil on one side of each piece of toast. On one piece of toast, lay out the mozzarella slices as a layer. Top with the tomatoes. Finish with a layer of basil leaves. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and pepper flakes. Top with the other piece of toast dressing side down.
Cut in half and mangia!