Cooks Corner

Mozzarrella en carrozza is better than fried sticks of cheese

Pound cake sundae: Topped with Breyers ice cream, now made with hormone-free milk and sustainable vanilla.
Pound cake sundae: Topped with Breyers ice cream, now made with hormone-free milk and sustainable vanilla. Breyers

Reader Patty Thomas said she wanted “to be my 13-year-old grandson’s favorite grandma” by making him something even better than the mozzarella sticks he liked to eat.

She described a recipe she’d once used and lost for deep-fried bread triangles stuffed with fresh mozzarella.

Lani Kaskel sent the recipe here in response.

“Several years ago (2006), I took a cooking class where we made a similar-sounding appetizer,” she said, “except the bread was cut in circles rather than triangles.”

Mozzarella en carrozza is comfort food from my childhood, and if you’ve never had it I can only describe it as a marriage of grilled cheese, French toast and pizza in one toasty, melty, gooey bliss.

“En Carrozza” means “in a carriage” in Italian, and I suppose was simply a colorful way of describing how the cheese was encased for easy eating.

The version Kaskel shared is an upscale riff on the theme, with fresh basil and shallots, a mixture of buffalo mozzarella, ricotta and parmesan, and she calls for cutting the bread into circles, all excellent upgrades.

My grandfather simply used shredded fresh mozzarella between the slices of bread, dipped in the same manner, but he used Italian-seasoned bread crumbs, and cut the sandwiches in four triangles before frying them crisp. The triangles were always paired with bowls of marinara sauce or tomato soup for dipping.

Some tips: This works best with bread that is a little stale, or at least slightly toasted.

The recipe calls for a lot of oil; it should come about halfway up the sides of the sandwich for a true “fried” result. To test if the oil is ready, drop a small piece of battered breadcrumbs into it; if it starts to float and sizzle, it’s perfect.

The sandwich should fry pretty quickly — about a minute on each side — if the oil is hot enough. If the deep frying does not appeal, simply pan-toast, the way you would a basic grilled cheese.

Preserving the harvest

Long before the farm-to-table movement and renewed interest in home canning, the Ball Blue Book was as essential as mason jars to preserving the harvest.

The cookbook has been around for more than 100 years, and the new 2015 edition, the 37th version, is the largest update yet.

Besides the information that makes it indispensable — seasonal planning calendar by region, a problem-solving section, a canner’s dictionary and step-by-step basic advice for beginners complete with photos — the Blue Book also includes 75 new recipes, reflecting modern tastes (read on for a peach salsa recipe, which I loved with a substitution of mangos for the peaches).

Ice-cold changes

Breyers just announced two changes: Its ice cream now will only be made with milk and cream sourced from cows that have not been treated with artificial hormones, and its vanilla will only come from sustainable sources.

I asked Antonia Lofaso, Top Chef All-Star, a frequent judge on Cutthroat Kitchen, and now a spokeswoman for the brand, why consumers should care.

“Parents want to serve their family foods that they can feel good about,” she said. “For me, that means high-quality ingredients. For example, Breyers is an ice cream that I’ve always felt great about eating and serving to my daughter. But now I feel even better.”

Lofaso created the recipe here, pretty basic but also pretty quick — especially if you buy the pound cake rather than make your own — but the addition of the basil is a fun bow to the new trend toward savory ingredients in desserts.

Sleuth’s Corner

Q. We used to dine years ago at Tula’s in Coconut Grove. They had a delicious dessert called Concorde (after a plaza in Paris), that was like toasted meringue.

We have never been able to find it again since Tula closed. Does anyone have a recipe?

Miriam, Miami.

Send questions and responses to or Food, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172.

Peach-Chile Salsa

6 cups peeled, pitted, chopped peaches (about 6 medium)

1/2 cup vinegar (5 percent acidity)

1 1/4 cups chopped red onion (about 1 medium)

4 jalapeño peppers, finely chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons honey

Wash peaches, peppers and cilantro under cold running water; drain. To peel peaches, plunge in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds. Immediately transfer to cold water. Pull off peel. Measure peaches and drop into the vinegar or sprinkle with Fruit-Fresh to prevent darkening. Combine in large saucepan with remaining ingredients and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to prevent sticking.

Ladle hot salsa into clean hot jar, leaving 1/2 inch headspace at top. Remove air bubbles by stirring with a clean knife. Clean jar rim. Center lid on jar and adjust band to fingertip tight. Place jar on rack elevated over simmering water (180 degrees) in canner. Repeat until all jars are filled.

Lower the rack into simmering water; water must cover jars by 1 inch. Adjust heat to medium-high, cover canner and bring water to a rolling boil. Process half-pint jars 15 minutes. Turn off heat and remove cover. Let jars cool 5 minutes. Remove jars from canner; do not retighten bands if loose. Cool 12 hours. Check seals. Label and store. Makes 8 half-pint jars.

Per serving: 5 calories (0 percent from fat), 0 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 g protein, 1.1 g carbohydrates, 0.2 g fiber, 0 mg sodium.

Source: Adapted from the “Ball Blue Book” (Hearthmark, $13.95).

Antonio Lofaso’s Pound Cake Sundae

2 fresh summer peaches, diced

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons thinly sliced basil

4 (1/4-inch thick) slices of plain pound cake

1 cup natural vanilla ice cream (1/4 cup each scoop)

Mix peaches, sugar, lemon juice and basil in a small bowl. Let stand while toasting the pound cake in a toaster.

To make each sundae, place a slice on each of 4 plates, then top with a scoop of ice cream and cover generously with macerated peaches. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 441 calories (39 percent from fat), 19.3 g fat, (9.2 g saturated fat, 4.7 g monounsaturated fat), 99 mg cholesterol, 6.3 g protein, 63 g carbohydrates, 1.6 g fiber, 315 mg sodium.

Source: Chef Antonia Lofaso.

Mozzarella en Carrozza

4 balls (about 4 ounces each) fresh mozzarella, diced

2 shallots, finely diced

10 leaves of fresh basil, finely sliced in chiffonade

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

16 pieces white bread

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups flour

8 eggs

1/4 cup milk

4 cups panko breadcrumbs

4 tablespoons butter

In a bowl mix together the mozzarella, shallots, basil, ricotta and parmesan cheeses. Season with salt and pepper. If desired for presentation, cut crusts from bread and cut into rounds. Make 8 sandwiches by dividing the cheese mixture onto 8 slices of bread and topping with the remaining slices.

Add salt and pepper as desired to the flour in a pie pan. Beat the eggs with the milk in a second pie pan or other shallow bowl. Place the panko in a third.

Dip the sandwiches one at a time into the flour, shake off excess, then dip into the egg mixture and finally into the breadcrumbs. When finished coating the sandwiches, place the butter and oil into a frying pan set on medium heat. When the oil is hot, carefully slide the sandwiches into the pan and fry until coating is golden brown on both sides and cheese is melted, turning once. Remove from pan onto paper towels and blot as needed. Serve immediately (reader Lani Kaskel suggests serving with a tomato and lemon-dressed arugula salad, or a tomato sauce for dipping is traditional). Makes 8 servings.

Per serving: 687 calories (41 percent from fat), 30.5 g fat, (13.8 g saturated fat, 8.5 g monounsaturated fat), 225 mg cholesterol, 31 g protein, 67 g carbohydrates, 2.8 g fiber, 748 mg sodium.

Source: Adapted from a reader recipe.