Summertime means an abundance of ripe, juicy tomatoes.
Tomatoes have so many marvelous uses! Today, let’s talk about the simple but magnificent caprese salad. You can whip up a delicious caprese in 10 minutes or less, and the result is so satisfying and appealing you’ll want to do it again tomorrow. A caprese salad holds within it the essence of summer. Did you know that it got its name from the Isle of Capri? It has only a few ingredients: fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and olive oil, plus a sprinkle of sea salt and healthy dose of freshly ground black pepper.
Variations on a Caprese Theme
There are some wonderful additions to the basic ingredients that can enhance a caprese salad without compromising its simple, summery goodness.
Balsamic vinegar adds a sweet tanginess. You can use a flavored balsamic to add a different punch. I’ve used a fig-flavored balsamic for caprese and it was lovely.
Burrata, which is like a ball of fresh mozzarella filled with cream, makes a great caprese, with a burst of creamy goodness that oozes out when you cut into it. The caprese salad below has burrata in the center and is also enhanced with red onion, which adds a nice crunch.
Goat cheese with the same ingredients isn’t technically a caprese salad, but is very similar. The one below had watercress, and it was lovely.
I do a riff on a caprese and call it Antipasto Fresca. The recipe is available via the link below, but basically, I use grape tomatoes cut in half and stuff them on toothpicks with a piece of either fresh mozzarella pearls or small cubes of mozzarella between them, garnished with fresh oregano and basil and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. My son absolutely loves these bite-sized gems.
No Recipe Necessary!
Caprese salad really needs no recipe. Just gather your ingredients and go with it. Be sure to use very good quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and tomatoes that aren’t the waxy supermarket standard. Heirloom tomatoes are particularly good. Using a variety of tomatoes in different colors can make it more visually stimulating, but really, the plainest caprese is still beautiful. Fresh herbs should be plentiful in the summer right alongside the tomato harvest, but you can substitute dried if necessary. Tear or cut the basil, and garnish with a few whole leaves. Oregano leaves can be cut or left whole.
Amounts-wise, use your judgment. You can make a caprese salad with as little as a single tomato and an ounce of fresh mozzarella. The more people you have, the more tomatoes and cheese you’ll need. If it’s an appetizer platter being served alongside other goodies, you can get by with a small amount per person. If it’s a first course / salad course, you’ll want more, and to plate individual servings.
To assemble, the tomatoes can be sliced and arranged in layers on the plate with slices of mozzarella, grouped around a ball of burrata, or, if they’re cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half and scattered among or around the cheese. You can get as creative as you like in arranging these beautiful ingredients. Give a light drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (if you’re using it) and then scatter the herbs. A pinch or two of sea salt and several turns of the pepper grinder complete the dish. It’s not standard, but sometimes I also add a pinch of red pepper flakes.
Serve your caprese at room temperature with crusty french bread, and watch it disappear. If you’re pairing it with wine, go with a crisp white like a sauvignon blanc or a pinot grigio.
🎶 Summertime, and the caprese is easy. 🎶
© 2021, Glover Gardens