As you may have noticed, the grocery stores and the farmers markets are loaded with fresh tomatoes of all sizes, shapes and colors: small Lemon Pears, round Lemon Boys, bright red Super Sweet 100s and pink Brandywines. That’s a good thing for me, since the hot, dry summer has slowed my garden tomato production of those varieties for now. I hope it’s a good thing for you, as well.
I love dressing slices of large tomatoes or a bowl of halved cherry tomatoes with a handful of fresh basil, good extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) and a small drizzle of an aged balsamic vinegar. Fresh tomatoes like these cry out for Insalata Caprese, the classic Italian pairing of fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil.
Cheese is probably one of the oldest foods and, like many wonderful things to eat, was probably a happy accident. Nearly four thousand years ago the Chinese and people in the Middle East used animal stomachs to transport food. In the case of milk, the rennet in the stomach lining are a natural coagulant. Walk a few days with milk in your natural backpack and, mamma mia!, cheese. During the Middle Ages, the Romans turned cheese making into an art.
The best mozzarella in Italy comes from Puglia in the south, where it is made with water buffalo milk and called mozzarella di bufala. It is called fior di latte if cow’s milk is used. The fresh mozzarella and burrata in Puglia are not considered cheese (formaggio), but are called latticini (dairy product) and are customarily eaten fresh.
Mozzarella and burrata are also known as pasta filata, cheeses that are pulled and stretched and are meant to be consumed within a day of production. That’s why locally made mozzarella will be better than imported mozzarella - it’s all about the freshness.
At M’tucci’s Italian Café & Market, we make our own mozzarella and burrata a couple of times a week, both for menu items at our other restaurants and for retail sale in the Market. Like many things Italian, it’s not a complicated process, but it does rely on technique and quality ingredients. Kai, who is our main casaro (cheese maker), said one of the hardest parts is becoming accustomed to plunging lightly-gloved hands into the hot mixture of water and curds (nearly 190 degrees) and working the cheese to the right consistency. In addition to the importance of technique, the quality of the milk is extremely important.
While mozzarella is a soft, fresh cheese, it has a firm consistency. Burrata is related to mozzarella, but different. Burrata is made by pressing a ball of mozzarella into a flat piece, forming a pocket, then adding a mixture of cream and stracciatella (strips of mozzarella) to the pocket and sealing it. In a sense, it’s a ball of mozzarella with a creamy, cheesy center.
The next time you pick up some mozzarella and burrata from the Market, don’t forget to get a bottle of the 10-year-old Aceto Balsamico. This is a certified Modena IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) vinegar, sweet and slightly syrupy, that will enhance your Insalata Caprese and many other dishes. The IGP designation means it is a genuine food product made in a specific area according to strict guidelines.
Last night I made two salads by starting with a plate of mixed greens. I marinated some chopped cherry tomatoes with fresh basil, EVOO, sea salt and fresh ground pepper. After 30 minutes I spooned the tomatoes and their juice on top of the lettuce, then cut a ball of burrata over the top of each salad (half for me, half for my wife). A bit of the balsamic vinegar over the top was the finishing touch.
Another popular Southern Italian salad is Insalata di Pomodoro e burrata con pangrattato e basilco or Tomato and Burrata Salad with bread crumbs and Basil. It’s easy to make variations of this with stale or fresh bread for the pangrattato, or just simply add some of M’tucci’s Sourdough bread cut into chunks.
Recipe for 4
3/4 pound of heirloom tomatoes or any ripe, flavorful tomato (cored and cut into 1” chunks)
8-10 cherry tomatoes halved (yellow or red)
M’tucci’s Sourdough (2-3 slices), light toasted or slightly stale, cut into 1” cubes (optional to rub them with a bit of fresh garlic before chopping)
1/3 - 1/2 C. Fresh Basil
1 ball of M’tucci’s Burrata
Lightly salt tomatoes and place in a colander to drain about 30 minutes.
If you don’t toast the bread, sauté it in a bit of EVOO for a crispy, olive oil flavor.
Combine tomatoes, chopped basil and bread, then cut the burrata into chunks, taking care to reserve the creamy liquid.
Add the burrata chunks and toss with a bit of EVOO and the creamy liquid. Dress the top with balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper to taste.
NEWS FROM M’TUCCI’S
LABOR DAY: All of our restaurants will be open normal hours on Labor Day, so if you’re around, we are too!
M’tucci’s @ Lava Rock Brewing Co.
Happy hour is back and better than ever. Lucky 7 Happy Hour features several menu items for $7, Monday - Friday 3:00 - 6:30. Pair the food with a beer for $10.50 or $11, depending on the beer. Not eating (why not?), then $1 off all pints.
Tonight, Friday, August 23: Instant Karma Live on the patio at 7:00.
Food & Beer Pairing
We held our first successful food and beer pairing Wednesday night and we look forward to doing many more. These are a great opportunity for the kitchen to try new items that pair well with the dozen or so Lava Rock beers on tap. Here are a few photos from the evening.
Cut of the Day - Porterhouse, Salt Water Potatoes, Grilled Asparagus Balsamic Reduction
Pan-Seared Seafood - Ruby Red Trout, Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Sautéed Arugula, Capers, Lemon Beurre Blanc
Ravioli - Red Wine Porcini Braised Duroc Pork Asiago, Wild Mushrooms Carmelized Onions, Shaved Parmesam, Micro Greens
Braise - Harris Ranch Beef Tips, Five Cheese Tortellini, Roasted Summer Squash, Red Bell Pepper, Haricot Vert, Light Lemon Cream Sauce, Arugula, Shaved Parmesan
AUGUST PRIX FIXE MENU
1st Course- Creamy Smoked Corn Chowder, Green Chile, Smoked House Bacon
2nd Course- Smoked BBQ Game Hen, Watermelon BBQ Sauce, Jalapeño Cornbread, House Slaw
3rd Course- Flourless Chocolate Cake, Coffee Ganache, Orange Coulis, Crispy Semolina
Spicy Penne and Salmon $20 - Italian olives, capers, serrano chiles, white wine, marinara
Rufino Rose, Italy, 8/32 - Notes of strawberry and hints of rose petal, white fruits and berries compliment the acidity and bubbles
Yellow Tail Tuna - $23 Buttery soft with a light sear
Michael David, Sauvignon Blanc, California, 9/36 - Refreshing notes of crisp apple, honeysuckle, and orange blossom, bright and slightly acidic.
Cut of the Day: 24 oz NY Strip - $32
Sasserogale, Sangiovese 7/28 - Notes of wild berries, cherries and a moderate spiciness
8:30 Friday: Julian Dossett Live in the bar
M’tucci’s Italian Café & Market
The new Café & Market continues to wow our guests, primarily because of the amazing pastries in our display case every day. Our new hours are 8:00am - 6:00pm. We carry the same great Italian imports, all of our artisan breads, and a wide variety of imported, domestic, and house made cheese and meat. There is an expanded selection of coffee and pastries. We’ll still have charcuterie boards to eat in or take out with wine and beer by the glass. Click here to see our new menu.
Recently, we catered the New Mexico Make A Wish foundation fundraiser. The buffet included Charcuterie Boards, Shrimp Boards, Chianina Meatballs and Arancini. Give us a call for your next event, wedding reception or party! Click here to see our catering menu. 505.350.0019 or email@example.com
M’TUCCI’S AROUND TOWN
Our market items can be purchased at a couple of locations in Albuquerque. We deliver our fresh bread every Tuesday and Friday to Silver Street Market at 2nd and Silver. Choose from Sourdough, Fennel Rye, Wheat, Baguette, Ciabatta, and Raisin Rosemary Focaccia.
Drinking at Bosque in Nob Hill? You can order a M’tucci’s Charcuterie Board while there.
SERVICE INDUSTRY NIGHT & DISCOUNTS
Area service industry workers can get a Service Industry card from us by showing proof of employment. With the card you receive 10% off your check every day and 20% off on Sundays from 6:00 - 9:00. Dine in only.
Our food is available for delivery with Door Dash or for pick up. Pick up something for the weekend or on your way home from work. The links to ordering are on the Home page.
MTUCCI’S YOUTUBE CHANNEL
Videos about making cocktails and pasta and getting to know the M’tucci’s culture. Click here
See you next Friday - Ciao!