Melissa d'Arabian is a busy mother of four and host of Food Network's "Ten Dollar Dinners." Read WWE.com's interview with her here, follow Melissa on Twitter and check out her website for even more simple and nutritious recipes.
A mozzarella, basil and tomato salad turns into the cutest handheld tartlet when layered into toasted bread cups. Instead of making time-consuming individual tartlets from pastry dough, I take white bread, flatten it with a rolling pin so it gets almost doughy, and then press each slice into a muffin cup. After a brush with olive oil and a short trip into the oven, they become thin, crisp, golden-brown shells, perfect for mozzarella cheese and a juicy tomato slice.
Preparation time: 15 minutes (plus 30 minutes to cool)
Cooking time: 13 minutes
8 slices white bread, crusts removed
1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
3 tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh basil plus 8 leaves, stacked, rolled, and thinly sliced
Ground black pepper
2 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced crosswise
4 ounces mozzarella, sliced into 8 small pieces
Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the bread on a cutting board and use a rolling pin or the underside of a large spoon to flatten the bread slices until they are very thin and almost doughy. Brush both sides of the bread with the olive oil and press the slices into the cups of a muffin tin to form shells.
2. Stir together the cream cheese, garlic powder, the 2 teaspoons chopped basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until smooth. Divide the cream cheese mixture among the bottoms of the bread cups and bake until the tartlets are golden and crusty, 12 to 13 minutes. Remove the muffin tin from the oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan (use your fingers) and placing them on a wire rack to cool completely.
3. Place the tomato slices on a large plate and season with a few generous pinches of salt. Set 1 slice mozzarella in each bread cup and then cover with 1 or 2 slices tomato. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (if using) and finish with the ribbons of fresh basil.
More Salad Tartlets
These tartlets are so sweet and picturesque — why stop with Caprese? Here are a few more ideas for ways to fill up bread tart cups (if a savory filling is especially saucy, create a cushion using shredded lettuce so the bottom of the cup doesn’t get soggy and fall apart):
• Crumbled feta cheese, chopped tomatoes and olives
• Creamy Cheese Spread and fried ham
• Lentil and Celery Salad
• Chopped Salad with Chicken, Salami and Mozzarella
• Crumbled blue cheese, finely chopped romaine, and crispy bacon