- 3/4 cup marinara sauce
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 6 tablespoons plain whole milk Greek yogurt
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- crushed red pepper flakespepper flakes
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- kosher salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (8-ounce) block mozzarella
- neutral oil or good-quality extra virgin olive oil, for frying
- 5 ounces baby spinach
- 3 ounces baby arugula
- 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 cup kalamata olives, halved
- 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 handful grated Parmesan
- 1 handful chopped flat-leaf parsley or torn basil leaves or both
The only food groups that I was ever really forbidden to eat growing up contained the words "cheese" and "fry," so … cheese fries or fried cheese. The occasional fried food was fine, and cheese was encouraged in my mom's life mission to ensure I got enough calcium, but the two concepts were kept very far from each other. No matter how many times I'd ask for a post-skating-practice concession stand cheese fry or mozzarella stick, I was always met with something along the lines of how they'd clog my arteries. Now that I'm a grown-up, it's really cool that I can eat mozzarella sticks whenever I want, but of course I inherited some guilt about it, so I counteract it by eating mozzarella sticks on top of a salad.
While the idea of plopping an already perfect food on top of a salad might seem kinda kitschy, when mozzarella sticks are put on a bed of peppery crunchy arugula and briny olives with a bright creamy marinara dressing, they actually somehow become even better versions of themselves. They're a solo star and a team player, a regular LeBron James.
Technique tip: Cheese can be breaded in advance, this salad is also good with fresh torn mozzarella if you don't feel like frying cheese.
For the dressing:
In a large measuring cup, whisk together the marinara, olive oil, yogurt and lemon juice and season to taste with crushed red pepper, salt and pepper. Set aside.
For the mozzarella sticks:1.
Set up a standard breading station with 3 wide shallow bowls. Combine the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt in one bowl. Beat the eggs with 2 splashes of water in the second bowl. Mix the panko, plain breadcrumbs, Parmesan, garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon salt and loads of black pepper in the third bowl.2.
Cut the block of mozzarella lengthwise down the center and then slice each long piece into 8 nuggets to make 16 pieces. Take each mozzarella piece through the breading procedure: Coat it in the flour, then the egg, then the panko mixture, then coat in the egg mixture and panko mixture again for a double breading. This breading step can be done up to a day in advance; keep the pieces covered in the fridge until ready to use.3.
Heat a large skillet, preferably cast-iron, over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to generously coat the bottom of the skillet. When a breadcrumb dropped into the oil sizzles, add the mozzarella sticks, an inch apart, and fry until golden brown on all sides, a few minutes on each side. Fry in batches if necessary to avoid crowding the pan, adding more oil if the pan seems dry. You could also deep-fry the suckers, but shallow frying is way more convenient and does a swell job.
For the salad:
While the cheese fries, assemble the salad: On a large platter, spread out the spinach and arugula. Scatter on the red onion, olives, chickpeas and tomatoes and drizzle on half of the dressing. When the mozzarella is done frying, transfer briefly to a paper towel to absorb any excess oil, then add to the salad. Top with the Parmesan and parsley and/or basil and serve with the remaining dressing.
From Home is Where the Eggs Are by Molly Yeh. Copyright © 2022 by Molly Rebecca Yeh. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.