Introduction: Caprese With a Swampy Twist
I've decided to stick with the adult party theme for the rest of this particular Halloween season, so today's tutorial is a scummy, creepy twist on a classic Italian appetizer: caprese salad. Whip this up for your guests, and it's sure to be the most impressive thing at the party!
The basil comes into play infused into olive oil, which serves as the murky swamp water. Balsamic caviar plays the role of frog spawn floating around in the swamp with gelled vinegar worms. The final touch is a pair of dismembered [mozarella] eyeballs, complete with attached [tomato] nerve root... Plus, you'll find that the 'caviar' is so addictive that you'll want to keep a jar on-hand to throw into your regular dinners and salads!
Step 1: Materials
- Canola or vegetable oil
- Olive oil
- Agar powder - I found some at an Asian grocery.
- Fresh basil
- Boncconcini mozarella
- Sliced green olives
- Balsamic vinegar
- Tall glass or jar
- Fresh cherry or roma tomatoes
- Black pepper
- Tomato paste or red food coloring
- Toothpick or paintbrush
Step 2: Brew Up Some Frog Spawn
Fill a tall jar or glass with canola or vegetable oil. Freeze for at least two hours. While the oil is chillin' (like a villain), whip up some basil-infused olive oil. When the oil has been in the freezer long enough, mix the vinegar and agar in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil, then remove from heat and pour into a glass container.
After the vinegar mixture has cooled for a few minutes, begin squeezing it into the jar of oil a few drops at a time using a dropper or pipette. I used a dropper leftover from a medicine bottle. The vinegar drops should form a sphere and slowly sink to the bottom of the jar. I found that 2-3 drops per sphere worked best. Work as quickly as you can to get as many spheres before the oil warms or the vinegar gels.
Step 3: Harvest Your Frog Eggs
Use a slotted spoon to scoop the 'caviar' from the jar, and drop them into a glass of water. Swirl them around with a spoon to rinse off the oil. Don't worry about popping or squishing them - they should be gelled all the way through. Note: You can prepare the caviar as much as a week ahead of time. Just store them in a jar with a bit of oil in the fridge.
Step 4: Grow the Worms
Cut the end off a bendy straw (as you see in the first picture), and stretch it all the way out. Run one end very briefly over a candle flame and then pinch together to seal it shut.
Use your dropper to fill the straw with vinegar mixture. Note: I used a half-balsamic, half-cider vinegar mixture for my worms so that they'd be more translucent and... wormy? Prop them in the fridge for a couple minutes to gel. When they're gelled through, snip off the sealed end of the straw, and squeeze your wormies out.
Step 5: Pull Out Your Eyeballs
Assemble your dismembered eyeballs. Cut a small indentation into the top of two small bocconcini mozzarella balls, and set a slice of green olive in the space so that it's level with the surface of the cheese. Drop a caviar into the center of the olive; this is the pupil of the eyeball. Dip a toothpick or thin paintbrush into thinned tomato paste or red food coloring, and paint on some veins to make the eyes more realistic. Now, here's the gross part: gut some cherry tomatoes, and use the insides to create the bloody optic nerve. Arrange the tomato guts like in the picture above.
Step 6: Populate the Swamp
Drizzle some of the basil-infused olive oil on the plate, and sprinkle a tablespoon or so of balsamic frog-spawn evenly around in the oil. Place a couple worms strategically, and sprinkle a bit of fresh black pepper around the rim of the plate.