“I can’t get any rest. People say I’m obsessed.”
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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 in the 80’s new wave scene, sound like they came from the Motown ’60s via an alternate dimension. It’s a bizarre hybrid of “from a time yet timeless” that shouldn’t work but does. Someday I’ll create a Music & Food issue or event around this album, but until then here’s a recipe inspired by one of my favorite 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 true 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 a B.C. / A.C. sort of thing.
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. 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, fresh ripe tomatoes, 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, tomato, fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil on toasted sourdough
Makes 1 sandwich
4 slices fresh mozzarella, 1/4” thick
4 slices fresh ripe tomatoes, 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, place the mozzarella slices in 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!