Marinated Tomato and Mozzarella Caprese Ciabbata Sandwich

Well that recipe title is a mouthful, but not as delicious as the mouthfuls of hot cheese sandwiched between some incredible toppings.


To the person who decided to marinate cheese- THANK YOU. I first came across the concept on The Kitchn and stopped in my tracks to try it. The only cheese I had in the fridge at the time was halloumi, and you can see for yourself how much I’ve enjoyed using halloumi. I marinated it in a tandoor paste to make these killer skewers a couple of months ago- seriously so good!


Whilst in Europe, I fell in love with sandwiches. I know, so terribly common of me. There was one particular sandwich that sealed the deal and it was this caprese sandwich. Made by an Australian man in Interlaken, Switzerland, I had this sandwich alongside a blood orange cocktail; incredibly incongruous but in that moment, I didn’t feel lonely. At that point, I had been without family for 3 weeks and I was feeling that ache in my chest commonly known as homesickness.


There’s a reason why a large portion of Zimbabweans choose to migrate to Australia. Their culture is very similar to ours, our weather patterns are almost identical and our accents are indistinguishable to the average European/American. Seriously, I have been asked way too many times if I’m from Australia or New Zealand. For this one plucky restaurant owner, his friendliness and sage in helping me choose a meal I’ll never forget uplifted my spirits after a long day of hiking.


Upon my return to Zimbabwe, I spent my time in the kitchen trying to recreate the magical sandwich. To some extent, my circumstances created some of the magic around the sandwich; I had been travelling alone for a week and I hadn’t had anything to eat that day since descending the mountain. The prospect of a new friend and a killer cocktail made me enjoy the meal so much more. Cheers to familiar faces in strange places!

Marinated Tomato and Mozzarella Caprese Ciabbata Grilled Sandwich

Ingredients

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes (optional)
  • 250 g mozzarella cheese, sliced into ¼ inch thick slices
  • 2 heirloom tomatoes, sliced thinly
  • ½ cup spinach pesto, homemade or storebought
  • 1 loaf of ciabatta bread, sliced in half horizontally then cut into sections.
  • Optional for serving: balsamic reduction, just boil 1 cup of balsamic vinegar until thick and reduced by half.

Method

  1. Combine the olive oil, garlic cloves, honey, lemon zest, black pepper and chilli flakes in a large airtight glass jar. Seal tightly and shake the jar to combine everything. Normally I would microwave the jar for 30 seconds to infuse the olive oil with the spices but this isn’t necessary.
  2. Throw the mozzarella and tomatoes into the olive oil mixture, seal the jar and shake to soak the tomatoes and cheese in the oil. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least an hour but for best results, leave overnight. Meanwhile, make the balsamic reduction if using.
  3. Heat your grill/broiler. Spread both halves of the ciabatta bread with the spinach pesto. Layer one half of the sandwiches with the tomatoes followed by the marinated cheese. Add both halves of the sandwiches to a baking tray, with the empty half pesto-side up.
  4. Grill the sandwich until the cheese has melted, about 5 minutes. If desired, you can leave it until the cheese is starting to turn golden brown, about another 5 minutes. Serve hot whilst the cheese is still gooey with the balsamic reduction!
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Herby Halloumi Heirloom Tomato Bake

That alliteration in the recipe title actually gave me goosebumps.


My mum’s been at it again folks, we have ripe tomatoes in our garden! If you don’t follow me on Instagram, firstly hop to it my username is @lifeisohsodandy! Secondly, you wouldn’t know about our chickens. Yes, we have chickens. You may have seen the first hen who was a gift to my mother from a friend in this post, her name is Butters. We thought that Butters was lonely, so we arranged for a rooster to keep her company and his name is Rodney. Don’t they make a sporting pair?


Whilst they are fascinating creatures to observe, they are wreaking havoc in the vegetable garden. Our gardener has recently locked the gate to the vegetable garden to stop them from getting in. In their hunt for earthworms and various insects, our beloved chickens have been digging up dirt en masse and uprooting the vegetables- not good.


Aside from the mischievous chickens, my mother has been successful in her tomato growing venture. We have beautiful heirloom tomatoes! I did what I do best- turned them into a delicious dish, of course. This makes a wholesome appetiser, best served with garlic bread or just plain toast as I’ve done. Throw in some olives and hummus and you could turn this into a winning platter!

Herby Halloumi Heirloom Tomato Bake

Ingredients

For the tomato bake:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • a sprinkle of chilli flakes (optional)
  • 100g halloumi, sliced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp mixed Italian herbs
  • 4-6 heirloom tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste (optional)
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 medium potato, unpeeled and chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 2 tsp castor sugar (optional- most of the time I find this unnecessary but if you think that the sauce is too bitter then throw in the sugar)

For the crusty bread: 

  • 3 slices white bread (sourdough also works really well)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • some salt and pepper

Method

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, oregano, basil and thyme. Add the halloumi and toss to coat in the herb mixture. Set aside and allow to marinate for at least 10 minutes.
  2. Reserve 2 of your tomatoes for the top of the dish. Dice the remaining tomatoes into small pieces. Heat some olive oil in the bottom of a large saucepan and fry the onion on high heat until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, carrot and mixed herbs to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally until the carrots are soft and the garlic is fragrant, about another 5 minutes.
  3. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste (if using) and water. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring the mixture to a boil  before adding the sweet potatoes and reducing the heat to low. Simmer until the tomatoes have cooked down and the sweet potatoes are soft, between 15 and 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, slice the tomatoes you had reserved earlier into thin slices. Heat up your grill/broiler and adjust your oven rack to the top shelf. Once the sweet potatoes are fully cooked, remove the saucepan from heat. Taste and season with salt ad pepper if needed; if the sauce is too bitter then add the castor sugar. Layer the top with the sliced tomatoes and top with the marinated halloumi. Grill for 8-10 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is golden brown, serve hot with crusty bread!

For the crusty bread: 

Slice the bread in half diagonally and lay on a rimless baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill for 5-7 minutes or until golden and crusty.