How To: Make 5 Amazing Appetizers Using the Same 3 Ingredients

Make 5 Amazing Appetizers Using the Same 3 Ingredients

When you look at an Italian flag, what do you see? Green, white, and red? Well, I see a Caprese salad. And no, I do not need to have my vision checked. It simply means that I have the eyes of a chef.

This classic combination of mozzarella, tomato, and basil has been dubbed the "flag" for a good reason. Its colors synchronize perfectly with Italy's national banner, and also pervade the world of antipasti (or "appetizers" for non-Italianos).

While mozzarella, tomato, and basil are best known for their teamwork in the insalata Caprese, their collaborative potential is limitless. With just three basic ingredients, you can prepare a smorgasbord of small bite delights. Try your hand at these five easy appetizers.

1. Caprese Salad

This tried-and-true classic is hard to mess up. It's also incredibly easy to make: slice tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh basil in the amounts/proportions you desire, arrange on a plate, dredge with high-quality extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt, dried oregano, and black pepper.

The sweetness and acidity of the tomatoes are a perfect counterpoint to the creamy and rounded flavor of fresh mozzarella. Juxtaposed with a few fragrant sprigs of basil, this salad makes you feel you're in culinary heaven.

2. Mozzarella & Cherry Tomato Mini-Skewers

These one-bite beauties are easy to prepare and go like hotcakes. To prepare, coat cherry tomatoes in a thin layer of olive oil, and then bake at 400ºF for 10 minutes. Remove from rack and cool. Skewer a cherry tomato with a mozzarella ball (or half of one if you want to be dainty). Finally... garnish with chopped basil and serve!

3. Braised Tomato Stuffed with Mozzarella & Basil

To prepare these bad boys, start (once again) with an oven set at 400°F. Slice off the tops of the tomatoes, then scoop out the pulp. Mix pulp with 1 tsp chopped basil (use more or less if desired) for every 4 tomatoes you use.

Using a sieve, drain the excess tomato juice from the pulp, and replace the pulp-basil mixture inside the tomatoes. Top off with a slice of mozzarella cheese, and bake for 10 minutes. After they're done baking, I like to put the tops of the tomatoes back on for presentation's sake.

If you're interested in serving a hot appetizer, this is one I strongly recommend. The tomatoes stay very moist as they bake, retaining plenty of heat. Even 10 minutes after being removed from the oven, they'll still release a small puff of steam when sliced open.

4. Tomato-Basil Bruschetta Topping

No matter how many times I make bruschetta, I am always taken aback by how delicious something so simple can taste. Even so, there are some recipes that can over-complicate this modest appetizer (i.e., blanching the tomatoes, adding caviar, etc.).

I like to keep things basic by dicing two vine ripened tomatoes, and mixing them with one teaspoon of chopped basil. Stir the mixture together and refrigerate for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Serve atop toasted bread and drizzle with olive oil.

5. Mozzarella Cheese Spread with Tomato & Basil

Melted cheese: the infamous deal-breaker that has held back oh so many vegetarians from making the full leap into vegan-hood.

While it is delectable in many forms, one of my favorites is a mozzarella-tomato-basil combination. At once it is both savory and refreshing—the perfect snack or party food.

To make this spread, chop ½ a tomato, tossing out the pulp and draining the juice with a sieve. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a sauce pan. Add the tomatoes, cooking for one minute until slightly soft. Add in ½ cup grated mozzarella, stirring until melted. Add in a pinch of chopped basil. Remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl.

More Fun with Italian Food

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Photos by Taylor Friedlander/Food Hacks

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