Daring Bakers Start Your Opera Cakes!

I had never even heard of an Opera cake until this month! The flavor combinations were so hard to choose from and the idea of assembling this cake sounded like a LOT of fun. I chose Amaretto flavoring with added fresh Bing cherries.
A HUGE hug to Ivonne, Lis, and co-hosts Fran and Shea for this fabulous new adventure! An Opera Cake. . .who would have thunk??! I have been working 6 days a week and finishing college stuff so put the challenge off till the very last. I really wish I could have squeezed it in sooner because I had a few questions to ask but instead, just pushed my way through. I melted chocolate again. . .two months in a row. Deep pride here! I may just get the hang of this yet. The buttercream frosting recipe was delicious, beautiful, and a keeper for upcoming cake baking events. I loved the creaminess and the vanilla bean seeds along with being able to flavor the frosting in any way that I can think of. A huge find! An almond cake base. How cool is that? I wonder what pistachio would taste like instead of almond? I am writing mental notes as I type. The top white chocolate glaze. . .was soooo thick and I had trouble smoothing the surface. I noticed in the Daring Baker Forum tonight that there are so many perfect looking Opera cakes! I guess I am going to have to investigate to find out what I did wrong. . .BUT the flavor of the overall cake is delicious! I am dying to bake this again when I can take a deep breath. I am going to have to look into the other flavor combinations that my team Daring Bakers have come up with to inspire my next attempt =D.

The new forum sure makes it easy to see how everyone else is doing and see what has been posted. What a great transition.

Thank you for another Wow Challenge! Here is the recipe as Posted by our wonderful hosts:

A Taste of Light: Opéra Cake

This recipe is based on Opéra Cake recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion.

For the joconde
(Note: The joconde can be made up to 1 day in advance and kept wrapped at room temperate)

What you’ll need:
•2 12½ x 15½-inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans
(Note: If you do not have jelly-roll pans this size, do not fear! You can use different-sized jelly-roll pans like 10 x 15-inches.)•a few tablespoons of melted butter (in addition to what’s called for in the ingredients’ list) and a brush (to grease the pans)
•parchment paper
•a whisk and a paddle attachment for a stand mixer or for a handheld mixer
•two mixing bowls (you can make do with one but it’s preferable to have two)

6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds (Note: If you do not want to use almond meal, you can use another nut meal like hazelnut. You can buy almond meal in bulk food stores or health food stores, or you can make it at home by grinding almonds in the food processor with a tablespoon or two of the flour that you would use in the cake. The reason you need the flour is to prevent the almonds from turning oily or pasty in the processor. You will need about 2 cups of blanched almonds to create enough almond meal for this cake.)
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. (1½ ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1.Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven.

2.Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C).

3.Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.

4.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside.

5.If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes.

6.Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!).

7.Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.

8.Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven.

9.Put the pans on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmold.

10.Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.

For the syrup
(Note: The syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.)

What you’ll need:
•a small saucepan


½ cup (125 grams) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. of the flavouring of your choice (i.e., vanilla extract, almond extract, cognac, limoncello, coconut cream, honey etc.)

1.Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.

2.Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

For the buttercream
(Note: The buttercream can be made up to 1 month in advance and packed in an airtight container. If made way in advance, you can freeze the buttercream. Alternatively you can refrigerate it for up to 4 days after making it. To use the buttercream simply bring it to room temperature and then beat it briefly to restore its consistency.)
(Update Note: The recipe for the buttercream that is listed below was originally based on the original but we had some typos. It's all very confusing (we're good at confusing ourselves) but here is the short of it: When testing the buttercream, we tested a modified version (we're crazy like that!!!) that had 2 cups sugar, ½ cup water and 1¾ cups butter. Yes. That's right. 1¾ cups of butter. The eggs remained the same. We ended up with a very creamy buttercream. VERY. CREAMY. But we don’t want anyone to be afraid of our modified version so you have the option of using the original version listed below or the quantities we’ve listed here in this note. If you are still confused and want to cry, then please e-mail us and we will comfort you!!! We promise!!!)

What you’ll need:
•a small saucepan
•a candy or instant-read thermometer
•a stand mixer or handheld mixer
•a bowl and a whisk attachment
•rubber spatula

1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60 grams) water seeds of one vanilla bean (split a vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the seeds) or 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract (Note: If you are flavouring your buttercream and do not want to use the vanilla, you do not have to. Vanilla will often enhance other flavours but if you want an intense, one-flavoured buttercream, then by all means leave it out!)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
flavouring of your choice (a tablespoon of an extract, a few tablespoons of melted white chocolate, citrus zest, etc.)

1.Combine the sugar, water and vanilla bean seeds or extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.

2.Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (107◦C) [*Note: Original recipe indicates a temperature of 255◦F (124◦C), however, when testing the recipe I found that this was too high so we heated to 225◦F and it worked fine] on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.

3.While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale and foamy.

4.When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature and you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment. Some of the syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl but don’t worry about this and don’t try to stir it into the mixture as it will harden!

5.Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).

6.While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl and mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass.

7.With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in two-tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny.

8.At this point add in your flavouring and beat for an additional minute or so.

9.Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).

For the white chocolate ganache/mousse
(this step is optional – please see Elements of an Opéra Cake below) (Note: The mousse can be made ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.)

What you’ll need:
•a small saucepan
•a mixer or handheld mixer

7 ounces white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
1 tbsp. liquer of your choice (Bailey’s, Amaretto, etc.)

1.Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.

2.Stir to ensure that it’s smooth and that the chocolate is melted. Add the tablespoon of liqueur to the chocolate and stir. Set aside to cool completely.

3.In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.

4.Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.

5.If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.

6.If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.

For the glaze
(Note: It’s best to make the glaze right when you’re ready to finish the cake.)

What you’ll need:
•a small saucepan or double boiler

14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream (35% cream)

1.Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth.

2.Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer.

3.Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.

Assembling the Opéra Cake
(Note: The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).
Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total): one 10-inch (25-cm) square and one 10 x 5-inch (25 x 12½-cm) rectangle.

Step A (if using buttercream only and not making the ganache/mousse):

Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.

Spread about one-third of the buttercream over this layer.Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.Spread another third of the buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde. Spread the remaining buttercream on top of the final layer of joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.

Step B (if making the ganache/mousse):

Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.

Spread about three-quarters of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.

Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

Prepare the ganache/mousse (if you haven’t already) and then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.

Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.

Meringue Cake with Strawberries &Cream

I saw a strawberry bed in a flower catalog that is a triple decker strawberry bed. The design is just like a three-tiered wedding cake with the top layer being the smallest, sitting on the second layer that is bigger, and both of these sitting on the last layer that is the biggest. It looks just like the one in this picture. What you may not see is that there is a sprinkler system in this set-up also. I was thinking that the addition of round rock to the outside of the beds would be a perfect deterant for slugs ~ along with slug bait, of course =0).

I am grateful that even with all the crazy, cold weather, my spring bulbs still managed to survive. I think a peaceful afternoon should always consist of a stroll through your flowers. The fragileness and beauty is always so uplifting. Dinner instantly goes from leftovers to making something a little more innovative. . .even if that means a fresh casserole. And then there is dessert.

I love strawberries. The plump berries colored bright red, the pretty green stem, the memory of how sweet and fresh they taste always gets to me the minute I walk into the grocery store for something I just have to have for a dinner ingredient. I notoriously end up walking out of the store with at least a quart package of beautiful berries. The problem? By the time I get to the berries for making a dessert, exhaustion sets in and I just figure that I will make something with them tomorrow night. . .only. . .tomorrow night never comes. Then the berries are sitting in the refrigerator, taunting me! Can I get away with wasting them just this once? Nope, my conscience is kicking me in the rear-end! I plug in the Ipod, blank out the soon-to-be distant memory of vegging on the couch for the last 2 hours before bed and get to work. What will I bake with these delectable berries? A meringue Cake! I have had this recipe sitting in my recipe holder for months, waiting for the right berries AND TONIGHT IS THE NIGHT!

I slice my berries, and I would now like to say that they are delicious, juicy, AND beautiful! I then mix up the cake batter and pour the thick concoction into my prepared cake pans, smooth the batter out, and whip up the meringue. I smooth out my meringue so that my freshly whipped heavy cream will have a wonderful pallette to rest on while holding the strawberry slices. Now I am wondering why I didn't make this earlier in the week? The recipe didn't take that long, even with me improvising, like I always do =0).

The cake is moist and the meringue is perfectly crunchy on the outside with a soft, sweet interior. The heavy cream is only the thickest, organic heavy cream I could find at Pike's Place Market in Seattle. The recipe came from Joyofcakes.com and the recipe was put together by none other then ME =0D.

Meringue Cake with Strawberries & Cream
4 large egg yolks
1 c. sifted cake flour
1 t. baking powder
1/8 t. salt (just give the ingredients a dusting)
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 c. granulated white sugar
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1/4 c. milk

Meringue Layer:
4 large egg whites
1/4 t. cream of tartar
1/2 c. granulated white sugar
1/2 t. pure vanilla extract

1 c. heavy whipping cream
2 T. granulated white sugar
1 pound fresh strawberries, sliced (Add a little sugar if necessary)
Confectioners Sugar (powdered or icing) for dusting top of cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Grease and flour two - 8 x 1 1/2 inches (20 x 3.75 cm) round cake pans. Set aside.

Separate the eggs while they are still cold, placing the yolks in one bowl and the whites in another bowl. Cover the two bowls with plastic wrap and allow the eggs to come to room temperature before using (about 30 minutes).

In a mixing bowl sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until soft (about 2 minutes). Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then beat in the vanilla extract.

With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans, smoothing the tops with an offset spatula. Set aside while you make the meringue layer.
In a clean bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the sugar and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Beat in the vanilla extract.

Divide the meringue between the two cake pans, gently smoothing the tops with an offset spatula. Bake for approximately 25 - 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. The meringue layers will have turned a light brown and will be crisp to the touch but soft inside. Place the pans on a wire rack to cool. When completely cooled, remove from pans.

Shortly before serving whip the cream with the sugar until soft peaks form. Slice the strawberries and, if necessary, add a little sugar to sweeten them. Place one of the cake layers, meringue side down, on a serving platter. Spread or pipe half of the whipping cream onto the cake and top with half the strawberries. Gently place the second cake layer, cake side down so the meringue layer is facing up, onto the first layer. Spread or pipe the rest of the whipping cream and then strawberries on top of the meringue. Dust with confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar. If not eating immediately, cover and place in the refrigerator until serving time. The assembled cake will hold in the refrigerator for a few hours.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake - From Taste and Tell

I have a "ton" of cookbooks with marked recipes and recipes printed out from websites that I just have to try. I have cooking magazines in order by date and name that have post-its sticking out of each magazine for recipes I am just "dying" to try. I believe there are over 3,000 magazines, uhmmm. . .I lost count trying to see. No, I didn't get all these by myself. I inherited all my Mom's cooking magazines, like the Bon Apetit ones from when I was just a little girl. Those, by the way, are soooo much fun to read and see what was the happening food of the decade. I thought I would like belonging to cooking groups on the internet a lot more then I actually do. You know the ones like sourdough cooking, taste of home group, campsite cooking, and bread groups. I just end up with tons of emails with recipes I do not have time to go through. Before Yahoo email started messing up my emails by deleting them daily, I had over 60,000 emails. . .no spam, just recipes and responses for these people talking to each other about the posted recipes.

Blogging feels more like an interaction with people around the world. I love it and I am totally hooked. The downside to this? I find and SEE the most beautiful food. People outside my immediate circle have the same interests and desire to try, test, and challenge themselves to create a food masterpiece in the hopes of discovering a new taste, flavor, or a relaxed moment of contemplation on what is being tried. Happiness is usually in the pleasure of others enjoying a new food creation. Maybe the creation is not new. Maybe it is a comfort food from the past. Blogging discovers other fellow food aficianados tastes in what comfort is and I get the inside scoop on all the mouth-watering details. Grouprecipes. com is my other joy for finding fantastic culinary ideas!

Well, I am definitely with Deborah at Taste and Tell when she starts talking about breakfast on the weekends. We love breakfast and look forward to Saturday with high hopes! This Saturday was no exception and when Deborah started talking about this sour cream coffee cake that she tested in her Barefoot Contessa cookbook; well, I knew this recipe was a must try because I adore coffeecakes and they are easy to put together while I am still not quite awake in the morning! We all nibbled on this wonderfully moist coffee cake all weekend. I even had a little left over to share with a couple co-workers Monday and they wanted the recipe to share with their wives. This whole cycle started from one blog entry. How COOL is that?!

Sour Cream Coffee Cake
For the Cake
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sour cream
2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Streusel
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
For the Glaze
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons real maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.
For the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a bowl and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumble. Mix in the walnuts, if desired.
Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup streusel. Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan, spread it out, and scatter the remaining streusel on top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.
Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the cake, streusel side up, onto a serving plate. Whisk the confectioners' sugar and maple syrup together, adding a few drops of water if necessary, to make the glaze runny. Drizzle as much as you like over the cake with a fork or spoon.
Serves 8 to 10

3 Layer Carrot Cake with a Buttermilk Glaze and Cream Cheese Frosting

A BIG Slice of Heaven
Zena is my friend's Grouprecipe name and a few of us at this site got on the bandwagon for trying Zena's carrot cake. I honestly never thought anyone could come close to beating my own 6-layer carrot cake but with the addition of the buttermilk glaze. . .well the cake is out of this world! The flavor and moistness is phenomenal! I can not get over the taste of the cake. The frosting is hard to keep out of, the glaze gets caramel in color and flavor, and the carrot cake itself is beautiful. The choices are open as to whether you like walnuts or pecans, with or without coconut, and you could even throw in a few raisins if you like. The frosting is creamy enough to throw swirls into and the addition of toasted, crushed pecans (or walnuts) sprinkled on top is just playtime for the cake. I took slices to work to share and everyone unanimously said this is the BEST carrot cake ever eaten. I want to try making my own carrot cake again with the glaze and frosting from this recipe and compare to see if I am beat in all categories. This is one time that I really don't mind losing =D.

2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups canola oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups grated carrots
1 (3 1/2 oz) package flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
Buttermilk Glaze:
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup butter milk
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting:
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 (8oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
1 (3oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
3 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Line three 9 inch round cake pans with wax paper; lightly grease and flour wax paper; set aside pans.
Stir together first 4 ingredients.
Beat eggs and next 4 ingredients at medium speed with a mixer until
smooth. Add flour mixture, beating at low speed until blended.
Fold in carrots and next 3 ingredients.
Pour batter into prepared cake pans.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until tooth pick comes clean out of center of cake

Buttermilk Glaze:
Bring first 5 ingredients to a boil in a large saucepan over medium high heat.
Boil, stirring often, 4 minutes.
Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla.
Drizzle glaze evenly over layers; cool in pans on wire racks 15
minutes. Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
Beat first 3 ingredients at medium speed with a mixer until creamy.
Add powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until smooth.
Spread frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake.
Can Garnish top of cake with extra pecans or walnuts.

Garden of Eden Pasta Sauce

I sooo miss my Grampa's vegetable garden! Going into the garden and testing the tomatoes for firmness and juiciness, looking for zucchini that is not to large, pulling up scallions that have perfect green tops, and walking over to the garden hose to freshly wash away the dark garden dirt. I started my own garden last year and loved it. I even grew corn and the flavor was so sweet and fresh with a great crunch. I could eat it straight from the garden without cooking it. The natural sugars in the corn amazed me. This year the weather has been so cold that any chance of baby plants making it would be slim to not at all. We had snow again about 2 weeks ago. The day before yesterday there was ice on my windshield of the car. In fact, one of my baby flowers died. It doesn't even feel like May yet. Hopefully that will change soon.

This pasta sauce is perfect for a hot weather, next to NO stove top cooking dish. The only ingredient that would get cooked is the pasta. That's it. The sauce does NOT get cooked. The salt sprinkled onto the chopped vegetables, herbs, and fresh mozzarella cheese softens and helps mingle the flavors. Getting the best fresh vegetables will make all the difference in flavor along with the basil leaves. I have pots of herbs on my deck that I can go out and snip. I just love that =). I think this fresh and chunky sauce matches really well with short pastas like penne, farfalle, and campanelle. This is enough sauce for 1 pound of pasta and the flavor comes down to marinating for 1 hour. Easy, colorful, healthy, and tasty.

Garden of Eden Pasta Sauce

2 Large tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 scallions, sliced thin
1/2 c. chopped fresh basil
1 t. salt
1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
2 T. red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. dried oregano

Combine tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, cheese, scallions, basil, and salt in large bowl. Whisk oil, vinegar, garlic, cumin, and oregano in small bowl. Pour oil mixture over tomato mixture and toss to coat. Cover and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.

Toss tomato mixture with cooked pasta and reserved pasta cooking water, if necessary. Serve.