Food: A marriage of fruit and cheese — Tomatoes and mozzarella offer a simple but delicious combo

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

Often, the best dishes are the simplest. If you use the best quality, freshest ingredients and treat them lightly, you will be rewarded.

This is demonstrated perfectly by this recipe for grilled tomatoes on the vine, served with fresh mozzarella. The best way to prepare this classic combination is to take a bunch of cherry tomatoes on the vine, grill them and serve them with mozzarella and some grilled bread, and you will have an amazing dish.

The most challenging aspect of preparing this recipe is treating the delicate tomatoes carefully so they don’t fall off the vine. You want to first brush or rub them with a little olive oil to protect them, then season them lightly with kosher salt. Place the tomatoes with the vine side up on a cooking grate and let them cook without turning them.

The heat of the grill will intensify the natural juices and sugars, making the sweet tomatoes even more flavorful. The warm tomatoes can be served immediately with mozzarella, a touch of extra-virgin olive oil, and a bit of salt and pepper. Serve it as a shared plate with grilled bread. I love ciabatta bread, but any good quality artisan bread will be ideal.

Smear a little mozzarella on the ciabatta and top with grill-roasted tomato. You can either spread the tomato, breaking the skin and smoothing out the juice on top of the cheese and olive oil, or keep it whole.

This delicious dish will become your go-to appetizer through the summer season. It is delicious and sumptuous and simple to prepare.

Grilled Tomatoes and Fresh Mozzarella

• 2 clusters of cherry or cocktail tomatoes on the vine

• Extra-virgin olive oil (splurge on the good stuff)

• Flaked sea salt

• 1 (16 oz.) ball of fresh mozzarella cheese

• Ground black pepper

• Artisan bread or ciabatta, to serve

1. Preheat the grill to medium-low.

2. Carefully rinse the tomatoes, but leave them on the vine. Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes and lightly rub it in, then sprinkle them lightly with sea salt.

3. Place the tomatoes, vine side up, directly on the grill’s cooking grate. Grill with the lid down for about five minutes, or until the tomatoes are warmed through and blackened in spots. Gently remove the tomatoes.

4. Place the cheese on a serving plate and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then arrange the tomatoes around it. Serve with bread to sop up the juice from the tomatoes and the mozzarella. Makes six servings.

Nothing says summer more than a frozen fruit popsicle on a steamy July evening. Let’s kick it up a notch and make, what I call, a Boozy Berry Pop. Served at my summer gatherings, Boozy Berry Pops are delicious, easy to make and budget-friendly.

They are reserved for only the “young at heart,” but absolutely can be made without alcohol, if that is your desire. The amount of alcohol for the entire batch of four is just enough to spike the pops without leaving everyone draped over your lawn chairs.

You don’t need any special pop makers or forms. These pops can be made in paper or plastic cups with plastic forks as the “stick,” so you probably already have the needed “equipment” at home right now. You can use fresh fruit if you desire, but since it’s going to be frozen anyway, the cheaper frozen fruit is perfectly fine.

With summer and outdoor dining in full swing, Boozy Berry Pops are a fun way to serve fruit, adult style.

Boozy Berry Pops

• 1/3 cup fresh lime juice

• 1/3 cup sugar

• 1 cup water

• 1/3 cup vodka or rum

• 2 2/3 cups frozen mixed berries (blueberries, raspberries and blackberries)

1. In a small saucepan, combine the lime juice, sugar and water and place over medium heat. Heat and stir just until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the burner

2. Using four eight-ounce plastic or paper cups, fill each cup with 2/3 cup frozen fruit. Stir the vodka in with the semi-cooled lime sugar mixture. Divide the vodka mixture between the four cups, pour directly over the fruit.

3. Stick a plastic fork or spoon in the center of each cup, anchoring it with the fruit so it will stand erect. Carefully place the cups on an even surface in the freezer for a minimum of 12 hours to freeze through. (It takes longer to freeze because of the alcohol.)

4. To serve, remove from the freezer and swirl the fork handle to release it from the cup. Serve with the cup to avoid drips. Enjoy!

Kimberly Thompson is the owner of The Grateful Gourmet in Galena, Ill.

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