An easy starter from London restaurateur Yotam Ottolenghi. "This is probably one of the simplest yet finest starters you can offer. There’s only one catch — your ingredients. I would ditch the idea at once if I couldn’t get a ripe summery tomato, juicy and sweetly intense, a tomato that has never seen a fridge or a chilled truck, only soil and sun. You can actually get such tomatoes if you look hard enough. The best tomato I ever had was homegrown in the village of Monarola in the Cinque Terre, northern Italy. I’ll never forget it. You also need a top-quality buffalo mozzarella. Serve this with good crusty white bread."
1/2 tsp fennel seeds grated zest of 1 lemon
15 basil leaves, shredded
2 tsp chopped oregano
2 tsp best-quality extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to finish
2 tsp grape seed oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 tsp Maldon sea salt, black pepper
8 to 9 oz. buffalo mozzarella cheese
2 ripe medium tomatoes (red, yellow or mixed)
Step 1: To make the marinade. Scatter the fennel seeds in a small frying pan over medium heat and dry-roast until they begin to pop. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and crush roughly. Place the crushed seeds in a small bowl and add the remaining marinade ingredients.
Step 2: Break the mozzarella roughly with your hands. Smear it with the marinade and set aside for 15-30 minutes.
Step 3: To serve, cut the tomatoes into wedges and plate along with the marinated mozzarella. Drizzle with extra olive oil and serve.
Reprinted with permission from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty (2011 Chronicle Books).