It’s the little things that make me happy these days.
- Two full days of sunshine so my clothes can dry fully on the line and not cause me to smell like a drowned mouse.
- Water so cold that there is a film of ice on the top.
- Coming home to find the electricity is turned on.
- Figuring out exactly how to ask for water (Njagalako amazzi) rather than asking for poop (Njagalako amazi)
- Frozen mozzarella cheese that you can now find in a local supermarket freezer for 9,000 shillings (approximately $4.50)
It’s a little bit harder making fried mozzarella sticks in Uganda than it is in America. For one, I can’t just run to the store and buy a can of breadcrumbs. I have to make mine. And that takes quite a while. Toasting the bread over low heat two slices at a time, crumbling it by hand/smashing it with a fork, re-toasting to make sure it’s super dry, and seasoning. And there’s thirty minutes of your day gone.
After that you have to start the tomato sauce (no bottled marinara sauce here!). I’m kind of a freak in that I find exquisite joy in slicing an X in the bottom of a tomato, boiling it for 30 seconds and peeling the skin off leaving the fleshy insides open to the world for me to squeeze. Yeah I’m a freak. It’s the little things. Remember?
Fried Mozzarella Sticks and Home-made Marinara Sauce
For the sticks:
Fresh mozzarella (not sticks…cheaters!)
2 cups flour
1/4 cup milk
2 cups bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried tarragon
Oil for frying
Begin by cutting the mozzarella into rectangular size pieces. Prepare the dipping station by pouring 2 cups of flour into a bowl, beating the eggs and milk together in a second bowl, and combining the 2 cups of breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, parsley, thyme and tarragon in a third bowl.
First, roll one mozzarella piece in the flour, coating it lightly all over. Then with a fork (or your fingers…I like using a fork since it keeps your hands clean) transfer the mozzarella to the egg/milk mixture and coat. Finally (with the fork again) transfer the eggy mozzarella to the breadcrumb mixture and coat with the breadcrumbs. I like using the fork to “spoon” the breadcrumbs over the cheese because it seems to stick better that way. Place the breaded cheese on a tray or cutting board and continue breading all the sticks.
In a large skillet, heat about 1 to 1.5 inches of cooking oil over medium-high heat until a small test piece of breadcrumb bubbles when you dip it in the oil. Then, CAREFULLY, lower about four or five (depending on the size of your skillet) breaded mozzarella sticks into the oil, being careful not to splash hot oil on yourself (like I did). Turn the cheese to brown the other side when the bottom becomes brown. You want the oil to be hot enough to quickly brown (note: brown, not blacken!) the breading without melting the cheese.
When both sides are browned, remove the Mozzarella cheese from the oil and let drain on paper towels as you fry the rest.
Enjoy hot with the dipping sauce of your choice!
For the marinara sauce:
3 medium tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 dash chili powder
1 pinch ground ginger
salt, to taste
Lightly cut an X in the bottoms of the tomatoes and boil the tomatoes for 30 seconds or until the skin begins to peel away from the tomato’s flesh where you cut the X. Remove the tomatoes from the water and peel the skin off. The skin should peel easily. If it doesn’t, return to the boiling water until you can see it begin to separate from the tomato.
Cut, mash or use a blender to break up the tomatoes into smaller pieces (you don’t want a puree here) and dump into a pot with the minced garlic, parsley, thyme, tarragon, ground mustard, cumin, chili powder, ground ginger, salt and one cup of water. Bring to a simmer and stir. Continue adding water as it cooks out until the tomatoes have cooked down into your desired consistency.