Caprese Bites with Honey-Balsamic

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caprese-stuffed-cherry-tomatoes-with-honey-balsamicBeing a blogger is undeniably awesome in many ways.

I don’t want to make you jealous by detailing the wonders of my footloose and pants-free lifestyle, but I feel really lucky to wake up everyday and boss myself around in my home office. It’s pretty epic that “work” means playing with food, documenting my successes and failures, and sharing them with you guys, who, for whatever reason, choose to hang out here on the reg. (You’re the best.)

I’m also intensely grateful that I don’t have to shell out for corporate attire (more cash for jumpsuits and crop tops!) or deal with awkward workplace dynamics, and I very much appreciate my sassy desk lunches. Nobody comments when social media hour runs long, or if I decide to take a bath between culinary experiments, and I’ve never once received a complaint about the volume of my (Ludacris) radio. Most importantly, the ratio of people to cake is never too big.

(I’m really trying not to make more Office Space references right now. It’s hard.)

caprese-bites-with-honey-balsamic-2With all of that said about the gloriousness of self-employment, there is one major drawback that’s worth mentioning…

It’s lonely.

Barring the few days a month when I have meetings or drag myself out of bed early for a bestie walk, I’m solo from the time I wake up until cocktail/dinner hour. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing (see above), but there are definitely moments when I feel scarily isolated. Or just plain scared. Writer’s block sets in, a recipe fails miserably, I get a crazy email, or I remember that I have no 5-year plan (beyond “write book, get TV show, pose in a classy/sexy way for Maxim”), and I start to panic. It’s easy to tumble down the “WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE?!” rabbit hole when you spend most of the day in your own head.

(Too heavy? Stay with me, I swear I’m getting to the happy and exciting stuff.)

caprese-bites-with-honey-balsamic-3Last year, I became increasingly aware of how deeply I craved a community of like-minded, creative peeps to talk shop with, but I wasn’t sure how/where to find it. My online attempts to integrate myself into the blogging “scene” were half-assed (it seemed like it required a lot of tweeting, which stressed me out), and I had zero non-creepy ideas about how to form real-life relationships with my virtual counterparts. Major dilemma.

Then, by some miracle, I was introduced to fellow food blogger Phoebe Lapine by a mutual friend last spring. (If you don’t already know Phoebe, she is AMAZING, and you’ll dig her site.) We immediately bonded over our shared love of tequila, general food nerdy-ness, and the ups and downs of blogging and private chef-ing. It was glorious, and I left that dinner hyper-conscious of the fact that I may have hugged her goodbye just a little too tight.

caprese-bites-with-honey-balsamic-4Through Phoebe, I was invited to Dana Cowin’s potluck this fall, where I met so many of my food blogging idols, including Anna Watson Carl. I’ve written about my shameless crush on Anna before, and she continues to inspire me on a regular basis. So you can imagine how pumped I was when she, Phoebe, and the great Amie Valpone decided to form a little NYC blogger gang with yours truly.

At a recent dinner, the four of us dug deep into the solitary nature of our day jobs and began brainstorming ways to build out our circle. Several glasses of champagne later, we hatched the idea for #FriendsinFood, an event designed to bring together members of the NYC food blogging community. The goal was to throw a fabulous dinner party that would foster friendship, support and collaboration amongst the group. (So touchy-feely, I know. But I told you, I’m all hearts and rainbows this year.)

caprese-bites-with-honey-balsamic-5The dinner took place last Wednesday at Maman (the cutest French café in NYC), and I’m thrilled to report that it was a raging success. The guest list? We had Ali Stafford from Alexandra Cooks, Julie Resnick from Feed Feed, Jodi Moreno from What’s Cooking Good Looking, Miranda Hammer of The Crunchy Radish, Lily Kunin of Clean Food Dirty City, Judy Kim of The Judy Lab, and Leanne Brown, author of Good and Cheap. The lovely Chinae Alexander arranged the flowers and styled the table, and Signe Birck worked her photo magic. BADASSES.

Everyone brought a dish and a story to share (I love a good story hour), and all the deliciousness was devoured by candlelight along with inordinate amounts of rosé and laughter. My festive contribution was a tray of these Caprese Bites with Honey-Balsamic…

caprese-bites-with-honey-balsamic-6The little flavor bombs on your screen are my go-to summer finger food. They’re bright, fresh and adorable, and while it’s mildly annoying to scoop the seeds and pulp from cherry tomatoes with an itsy-bitsy spoon, I promise the end result is 100% worth it. I introduced these bites with a story about my childhood fear of Caprese, but I’ll get into that at another time. This post is already too long.

caprese-bites-with-honey-balsamic-8Overall, it was a magical night, and I’m hoping this is the first of many #FriendsinFood gatherings to come. If you’re inspired to create a similar gathering in your own city, shoot me an email! God knows I’d love to be partially responsible for creating a movement…

p.s. Please make the Caprese Bites ASAP. People really like tiny foods.

Caprese Bites with Honey-Balsamic: (Makes 25-30 bites)

1 pound cherry tomatoes or mini tomatoes on the vine (about 25-30 tomatoes)
¼ cup aged balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 ounces Buffalo mozzarella, cut into roughly ¼-inch cubes
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
6 basil leaves, chopped

Preparing your Caprese Bites with Honey-Balsamic

-Carefully slice the tops off of each of your tomatoes.

mozzarella-stuffed-cherry-tomatoes-with-balsamic-step-1-Using the tiniest spoon you can get your hands on, scoop the seeds and pulp from the tomato. (If the seeds/pulp feel stuck, simply use your paring knife to loosen them.)

mozzarella-stuffed-cherry-tomatoes-with-balsamic-step-2-Place the hollow tomatoes cut-side down on a paper towel-lined plate or cutting board and let them drain for 15 minutes.

mozzarella-stuffed-cherry-tomatoes-with-balsamic-step-3-Meanwhile, get going on your honey-balsamic. Place the balsamic and honey in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes until syrupy. (It should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, friends.)

caprese-bites-with-honey-balsamic-step-10-Rub the inside of each tomato with a little bit of olive oil and season with a tiny pinch of salt.

mozzarella-stuffed-cherry-tomatoes-with-balsamic-step-7-Add a drop or two of honey balsamic (not too much!) to each tomato.

mozzarella-stuffed-cherry-tomatoes-with-balsamic-step-5-Then stuff each one with a cube of cheese.

mozzarella-stuffed-cherry-tomatoes-with-balsamic-step-6-Top each bite with a little fresh ground pepper and sprinkling of fresh basil.

mozzarella-stuffed-cherry-tomatoes-with-balsamic-step-8*If you want to prep these in advance and keep them in the fridge, that’s awesome. Just cover them with plastic wrap and wait to add the basil until just before serving.

caprese-bites-with-honey-balsamic-9Miniature food is the best.

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