Yid.Dish: Israeli Caprese Salad


I made mozzarella cheese last night. This is not a shechechiyanu moment – I’ve done it before, using this, highly recommended, cheese making kit. But every time I accomplish the feat of turning a gallon of milk into two fistfuls of salty, stretchy, kosher cheese, it feels rather profound.

It also feels a little wasteful, as in, “I go to the trouble of pouring a whole gallon of milk into a pot, heating it 88 degrees, and stirring in vegetable rennet, and this is the thanks I get? A bunch of wasted whey?” I know I could probably save the whey that separates from the cheese curds, and use it for a million different things (suggestions welcome). But aside from pouring about 1 cup worth into my grateful plants, I dumped the rest of it down the drain. I thought my roommates might not appreciate two large Tupperwares full of yellow cheese-water crowding up the fridge.

So why did I go to all this trouble to make my own cheese? Well, to impress my Shabbat guests, of course – and also to make an “Israeli caprese salad,” which is a simple tweak on the Italian classic of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil, but might just be an entirely new creation.

Perhaps I should say a shechechiyanu afterall? Recipe below the jump.

Israeli Caprese Salad
Caprese salad originated in the Italian region of Campania, and is one of those simple, classic recipes that has existed, mostly unchanged, for a long time.  I shook a liberal amount of the Middle Eastern spice za’atar on top, which added a delicious element of savory complexity…dare I say umami?

1 medium sized ball, fresh mozzarella
15 fresh basil leaves, washed
2 ripe heirloom tomatoes
1 Tbs Olive Oil
1 1/2 tsp za’atar
sea salt / fresh pepper

Slice the mozzarella into 1/4 inch thick rounds. Slice the tomatoes the same way and remove the seeds. Arrange mozz, basil, and tomatoes on a plate – you can do this any way you’d like, but the traditional way is to layer them in an alternating pattern. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with za’atar, salt, and pepper. (See below – note, that’s not my caprese below. My slightly more humble-looking, but very tasty cheese is pictured above.)


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8 Responses to “Yid.Dish: Israeli Caprese Salad”

  1. Ron Says:


  2. Hershele Ostropoler Says:

    You can use whey instead of water in sourdough starter to give the lactobacilli a leg up. Course, that may make the resulting bread useless for corned-beef sandwiches, and similarly you can’t put shmaltz on it.

  3. Rachel Says:

    Use the whey to make ricotta! :-)

  4. phyllis Says:

    yummy!!!! this is why i planted tomatoes and basil this year.

  5. Victoria Says:

    I substitute the whey for milk when making pancakes, and in other baked goods where milk is called for and a slight tang would work. I also freeze it in portions for my pancakes which is the favorite way in my house for the whey to be used.

  6. Debs Says:

    You can cook curries or rice with the whey, I believe. Keep in mind, though, that the whey contains all the lactose.

    Also, you can store your mozzarella balls in a mixture of half whey, half water.

    Food Is Love

  7. Aliza Wasserman Says:

    sounds very yummy with the zaatar. i was mostly excited when you said that picture wasn’t of your caprese salad, because when i made it (sans zaatar) the other day with sungolds from the tomato plant on my mini-porch, it most certainly did not look like that :)

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