Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Caprese Salad with Herbed Lime Vinaigrette

Bowl of Salad, Bowl of Dressing
Before Adding Dressing

Recipe by Robin

With a wealth of tomatoes and basil still growing in my garden, a Caprese salad seems like a natural, except for one thing. I’m obsessive about fresh mozzarella cheese. I can barely contain my desire to eat whatever quantity comes into my house once the wrapper is open. Is it the mild taste, the texture, the way it combines with other foods? (Not the latter, since I happily enjoy it sans accompaniment.) Luckily, I discovered a sealed container of fresh mozzarella balls packed in water at the local natural foods store. The 8 oz. size is perfect for this salad, with no chopping (and sneaking bites) required. And just in time for late tomatoes and basil. The success of this salad depends upon the freshness of all 3 of these ingredients.

Bowl of Salad on second day
Use Leftover within a Day
Though the traditional Caprese salad is simply drizzled with olive oil and sometimes a bit of balsamic vinegar, I’d wanted to make an herby Italian style vinaigrette for some time. Though my garden chives, oregano, and marjoram look fine at the moment, waning light and potentially frosty October nights suggest that it’s prudent to harvest now. Because I wanted the herbs to be the dominant dressing flavoring, I scaled back the spicing my Dijon Vinaigrette recipe. I added some lime juice for uniqueness…but mostly because the limes I had on hand need to be used asap. Fortunately this serendipity turned out a dressing that compliments tomatoes and cheese perfectly.

Parsley, Oregano/Marjoram, Chives, and Basil
Herbs for Dressing and Salad
If you substitute the herbs, use caution. Some herbs, like tarragon, don’t play well with others, and remember that basil is a vital part of the salad. I chose the fairly innocuous parsley and chives, along with the Italian classics oregano and marjoram. You could change the proportions, or delete one or two herbs if you like. You could add some thyme, but remember that it’s strong, so use a small amount.

Four varieties of tomatoes in basket
Use a Variety of Tomatoes
Because I had several varieties of tomatoes on hand, I chose to mix them in the salad. Using tomatoes of different size, shape, and texture adds extra interest to the salad. In particular, combining cherry or grape tomatoes with slicers makes the salad more flavorful and fun. I used Sungold cherry tomatoes (about 6 oz.), Mortgage Lifter heirlooms, Super Bush, and dry farmed Early Girls. Enjoy this salad with the last of your garden’s harvest.

Individual bowl of Caprese Salad
Fresh Ingredients Combine Deliciously
Mixed Tomato Caprese Salad with Herbed Lime Vinaigrette
serves about 5

1½ - 2 lbs. assorted tomatoes
3 tbsp. basil chiffonade (see below)
½ lb. fresh mozzarella balls
2½ tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. lime juice
2 tbsp. water
1/8 tsp. agave or honey
1 small clove garlic
¼ tsp. salt
~1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
2½ tsp. finely chopped chives
2½ tsp. finely chopped parsley
1½ tsp. finely chopped Greek oregano
1 tsp. finely chopped marjoram
2 tbsp. olive oil

Prepare ingredients: Cut slicing tomatoes into wedges, then cut wedges into one-inch chunks. If very liquidy, remove seeds. Drain in a strainer while you prepare the rest of the salad.

Slice large firm grape or cherry tomatoes in half and drain. Keep smaller cherry tomatoes whole. Set aside.

To chiffonade the basil, stack several leaves together and roll up into cylinder along the long edge. Slice into thin crosswise strips by cutting across the cylinder with scissors or knife. Set aside.

Drain mozzarella balls. Set aside.

Chop all herbs finely. Press garlic through garlic press.

Make dressing: In a small dish, stir together red wine vinegar, lime juice, water, and agave or honey until dissolved. Stir in garlic, salt, and pepper.

Stir in chopped herbs until well blended. Add oil and stir again until blended.

Assemble salad: In a salad serving bowl, toss together the drained slicing tomatoes, the cherry or grape tomatoes, and the mozzarella balls. Sprinkle the basil strips around the edge of the salad bowl. Beat dressing with fork to blend and pour over middle of salad. Toss salad at the table and serve.

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