When you have fresh, summer tomatoes you have to make salads! I think it’s a rule. And an important part of the rule is that the salad be full of fresh ingredients, have plenty of flavor, and be balanced in flavors and textures. My tomato arugula salad has fresh tomatoes, arugula, and basil; layers on the flavor with a zippy dressing and by adding salt to the tomatoes; and has great contrasts among the juicy tomatoes, peppery arugula and crispy fried mozzarella.
I’ve mentioned my neighbor’s vegetable garden a few times over the years and it’s time to mention it again! Not only do they keep me in basil all summer, but last year they gifted me with a GIANT zucchini, which I used to make Gluten Free Zucchini Fritters and Tender Zucchini Cheddar Biscuits. Yum!
And they grow lots of tomatoes! More than they can eat, but I am happy to help. 🙂
All those great tomatoes bring me to this salad. Because once I had a pile of little orange tomatoes and mid-sized red, yellow, and orange tomatoes on my counter from my lovely neighbors (and a bunch of other heirloom tomatoes from the farm stand, since I can’t resist fresh veggies this time of year any more than I can resist fresh fruit), I knew I needed to come up with a fun and tasty recipe for them.
Now, I love caprese salad just as much as the next Italian-American girl, but I’ve done a couple of renditions of it already. (Caprese with burrata and heirloom tomato caprese.) So I knew I needed something a little different.
And then I had it! I also love fried mozzarella (who doesn’t??) and sliced, fried mozzarella not only gives a twist to the caprese salad, but it also gives a call back to my old favorite fried goat cheese salads.
If you’re young you might not remember their heyday, but I have good memories of discovering fried goat cheese salads in the 90s. I remember making a great fried goat cheese salad with crispy onions from Bon Appetit way back when. Unfortunately it’s not on the website and I’ve long since tossed the magazine so all I have left of that salad is the memory.
Though, of course, we can make new salads and new memories! Which means I’m dragging this discussion back to fried mozzarella. Since that is what this salad is all about.
Yummy, crispy, gooey fried mozzarella. There is a reason why mozzarella sticks are so popular. 🙂
And this salad is all about beautifully ripe and fresh tomatoes. While winter time tomatoes have improved over the years, there is nothing like sun ripened local tomatoes. Between my neighbors and their green thumb and the farm down the road, this salad doesn’t get any more local.
A few things I want to mention about the salad before I get to the recipe:
- Salt the tomatoes before you add them to the salad. You can let them drain a bit if you want, but mostly you are adding seasoning to the tomatoes. Salt will make their flavors pop.
- Don’t overdress the arugula. Too much dressing will make the greens limp. I drizzle the dressing over lightly, give everything a toss and leave it. Put the extra dressing in a bowl and have it at the table if someone needs a few more drops.
- You may notice a complete absence of tomato seeds in the photos. I have long since realized that I am not a fan of tomato seeds, though I love tomatoes, so I always seed fresh tomatoes. Seed or don’t as you wish, but expect unseeded tomatoes to have more liquid in the salad.
- I tried various configurations and decided that mid-sized tomatoes cut in wedge shapes worked the best in the salad. Yes, it does taste different! 🙂
- Don’t skip the fresh basil. It brings it all together and ties the salad back to its caprese origin.
– Happy Salad Making, Annemarie
Fried Mozzarella, Tomato and Arugula Salad
- 6 oz low moisture whole milk mozzarella cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 6-8 medium tomatoes, about 2 inch diameter, various colors
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 4 cups arugula
- 1/4 cup sliced fresh basil
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp sherry vinegar
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- Slice the mozzarella 1/4 inch thick. Then cut the slices into wedges until you have 16 slices of mozzarella.
- Set up a wax paper lined baking sheet. Beat the egg in a shallow bowl and add the bread crumbs to another shallow bowl. Dip the mozzarella in the egg and then in the bread crumbs, pressing the crumbs to adhere. Put each finished piece of mozzarella on the baking sheet. Freeze the mozzarella slices for 1 hour.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmery, add the mozzarella in two batches. Fry for 1-2 minutes on one side, or until golden brown, then carefully flip the slices and fry them on the other for another minute.
- Core, seed, and slice the tomatoes into wedges. Toss them with the kosher salt and set aside. Add the arugula and basil to each salad plate.
- Whisk together all the dressing ingredients. Drizzle about half the dressing over the arugula and toss to coat. Arrange the tomatoes over. Sprinkle a little more dressing over the tomatoes if you want. Then top with the fried mozzarella.
- Don't fry the mozzarella until you have completely made the salads. The cheese is best gooey and hot. Make the salads while the mozzarella is chilling.
- The mozzarella can be a little fussy when you're frying it, especially if your pan isn't hot enough to brown the bread crumbs quickly. However, even if they melt in each other a little as you're working, they will still taste good.