A talent for making prizewinning fresh mozzarella cheese (which in various shapes is also called ovaline, bocconcini, and ciliegine) has prompted the merger of two California companies: Mozzarella Fresca of Benicia and ItalCheese of Gardena. As I toured the Gardena plant recently, I got a good look at ― and taste of ― one of their freshest ideas: mozzarella packed alongside marinated vegetables to mix together to make insalatas. The salads are perfect for a first course or light meal. The refrigerated cheeses and vegetables (roasted red peppers, artichokes, roasted tomatoes, and calamata olives, in various combinations) are packed separately to preserve their texture and flavor integrity until you open the pouches and mix them together.
The packs (18 to 21 oz.; 4 to 5 first-course servings) cost from $4.99 to $5.99; you'll find them, labeled ItalCheese, with specialty cheeses in many supermarkets, particularly those that focus on natural foods. For a source near you, call (707) 746-6818.