Mozzarella with grilled fennel and peppers on crostini

    50 min

    Here is a colourful, Mediterranean-style dish that is very easy to make. The vegetables can be prepared in advance if you like, and left to soak up the flavours in the dressing, then mixed with the mozzarella and piled onto freshly toasted, garlicky ciabatta bread. A perfect summer lunch.

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    Serves: 4 

    • 1 large bulb of fennel, about 300 g (10½ oz)
    • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 small red onion, halved
    • 1 red pepper, halved and seeded
    • 1 yellow pepper, halved and seeded
    • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
    • 150 g (5½ oz) mozzarella cheese, diced
    • 85 g (3 oz) mixed salad leaves
    • 15 g (½ oz) fresh basil leaves
    • 1 ciabatta loaf, thickly sliced
    • 1 garlic clove, halved
    • salt and pepper

    Prep:35min  ›  Cook:15min  ›  Ready in:50min 

    1. Preheat the grill to high. Cut the fennel bulb in half lengthways, then cut each half lengthways into 1 cm (½ in) thick slices, not cutting all the way through the base so the layers remain attached. Place the halves cut side down on a baking tray and brush lightly with 1 tbsp of the oil.
    2. Put the onion halves and peppers cut side down on the baking tray. Grill the vegetables for 10–15 minutes, turning once, until the fennel is golden brown and the peppers and onions are tender and blackened in places.
    3. Transfer the vegetables to a chopping board (leave the grill on). Pour any juices from the baking tray into a small bowl and whisk in the remaining 2 tbsp oil and the balsamic vinegar. Season this dressing with salt and pepper to taste.
    4. Thickly slice the peppers and onion. Cut through the base of the fennel halves to separate the slices. Put all the vegetables in a mixing bowl. Pour over the dressing and toss well to coat the vegetables evenly. Add the mozzarella, salad leaves and basil to the bowl, piling them on top of the vegetables (do not toss together yet)
    5. Spread out the ciabatta slices on a clean baking sheet and toast under the grill for 2–3 minutes or until golden on both sides. Rub one side of each slice with the cut surface of the garlic clove; discard the garlic.
    6. Toss the mozzarella, leaves and vegetables to mix them together, then pile on top of the ciabatta toasts. Serve immediately.

    Plus points

    Mozzarella cheese is lower in fat than many other varieties of cheeses and so contains fewer calories. * Fennel is believed to help digestion, particularly by relieving colic, stomach cramps and wind. * Peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C and of beta-carotene. However, the beta-carotene content varies according to the colour of the pepper, red peppers having the most and green peppers the least.

    Some more ideas

    For a rich, nutty flavour, replace the olive oil with hazelnut or walnut oil. * To make mozzarella and vegetable pitta pockets, cut 4 pitta breads across in half and warm under the grill. Open the pockets and spoon in the mozzarella and grilled vegetables. * Make the classic Italian mozzarella, avocado and tomato salad and serve on toasted ciabatta. Peel a large avocado and cut across into slices. Slice 2 large, ripe tomatoes and 150 g (5½ oz) mozzarella. Mix together 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 2 tsp balsamic vinegar, and seasoning to taste in a bowl. Add the avocado, tomatoes and mozzarella, together with a handful of torn fresh basil leaves, and mix gently with the dressing. Toast the ciabatta and rub with garlic as in the main recipe, then top with the salad and serve.

    Each serving provides

    A, C * B12, calcium, selenium * B1, B6, E, folate, niacin, copper, iron, potassium, zinc

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