There is still time to make this classic salad. But hurry, sweet and juicy tomatoes won’t last much longer.Are you desperately trying to hold on to summer? Do you feel like you are absolutely not ready for jackets, scarfs and boots? Here in California it still feels like summer most of the time. We got a tiny bit of much needed rain last week but now we are back to 80 degree weather. So I think posting a very summer-like recipe is justified. I shot these pictures mid August but never got around to working on them. So, it’s either now or next year!Caprese Salad or Insalata Caprese is a very well known Italian dish. It consists of only few ingredients so their freshness and flavor are crucial. You need a few sun ripened tomatoes (preferably heirloom varieties), fresh basil, and mozzarella cheese. It’s good to mix different kinds of tomatoes for additional flavor. I like to cut them into slices and quarters to make the salad look even more interesting.
Mozzarella cheese is a mild cheese that comes in many varieties. It is typically made from cow’s milk or water buffalo’s milk but that’s harder to find. Since it melts wonderfully, it is very often used on pizza. You can buy mozzarella shaped as logs that are great for shredding or as different size balls immersed in a water- salt solution. Ciliegine are cherry-sized balls of fresh mozzarella, Ovolini are egg-sized balls. Burrata is a piece of heaven! It’s a bigger ball of mozzarella with a heavy cream in the middle. It’s perfect as an appetizer and for making crostini. There is also a smoked mozzarella available that has a stronger, saltier taste. You should avoid buying the pre-shredded cheese since it has anti-caking agents and who needs that?! But it comes handy when in a hurry and I’m guilty, too.
In Italy the Caprese Salad is served only with a drizzle of a good quality extra virgin olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper. In other places, a bit of balsamic vinegar is added, too. Recently, my husband and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary and we got to spend a couple of days in the beautiful Napa Valley. While walking around Calistoga we discovered a small shop Calistoga Olive Oil Company that offers a wide selection of locally made olive oil as well as balsamic vinegar that’s produced in Italy. We got to sample some amazing extra virgin olive oils before settling on one. The balsamic vinegar is cask aged for 18 years and is made from white grapes. It is the best balsamic vinegar I have ever tasted. It is more concentrated and sweet than the average balsamic vinegar but it’s not as thick as a balsamic glaze. It is perfect for using on roasted vegetables, fish and ice cream.Serves: 2 Prep time: 10 minutes Ready in: 10 minutes
- 3-4 medium tomatoes, heirloom varieties, some sliced, some quartered
- 16 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, torn into small pieces (here I used Ovolini)
- 10-15 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
- pinch of salt and pepper
- drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil
- drizzle of good quality balsamic vinegar
- Slice and quarter tomatoes. Arrange on individual plates.
- Depending on the kind of mozzarella cheese you are using, either slice or tear it and place the pieces between and on top of the tomato pieces.
- Sprinkle the basil, salt and pepper. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Serve at once.