Sunday, August 24, 2014

Classic Caprese Salad

Circular Salad Viewed from Overhead
Caprese Eye-Candy

Recipe by Robin

Few salads are as attractive as Caprese salad when compared with the amount of work needed for their creation. Caprese’s bold colors, reminiscent of the Italian flag, appeal to the eye as the simple combination of basil, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella appeals to the tastebuds. Though home chefs will be hard pressed to match the restaurant version with cheese and tomato slices exactly matching in diameter and thickness and perfect tiny basil leaves, the home-based result is plenty appealing when carefully arranged. Garden basil prepared chiffonade-style and sprinkled over the top fools the eye into thinking that the tomato and cheese slices match more perfectly.

Closeup of Caprese Salad
Summer (Garden) Celebration
Since this recipe is so simple, high quality and fresh ingredients are key to its success. Perfectly ripe garden tomatoes and freshly picked basil are ideal. High quality extra-virgin olive oil and real Italian mozzarella are “must haves.” Some chefs top their Caprese salads with a touch of balsamic vinegar or vinaigrette dressing, but these are not needed or even desirable if the main ingredients are up to snuff.

With that said, variety is the spice of life, especially if you’re harvesting vast quantities of garden tomatoes. Leave a comment if you’ve enjoyed making variations on the basic Caprese salad. If you’re harvesting cherry tomatoes, you might also like to try my mixed-tomato Caprese with herbed lime vinaigrette.

Slices of Mozzarella and Tomato being Arranged on Platter
Setting Up the Salad
Classic Caprese Salad
serves about 4

1 lb. very ripe garden tomatoes
½ lb. (8 oz.) pre-sliced log of fresh mozzarella
1 – 2 tbsp. fresh chiffonaded basil leaves
2 - 3 tbsp. good olive oil
salt and pepper

Choose tomatoes that are about the same size, and close to the diameter of the mozzarella log. Cut off the ends and slice into pieces approximately the same thickness of the cheese slices. About ½ inch thick is standard. Cut the same number of tomato slices as you have cheese slices.

Separate the cheese slices. Alternate cheese and tomato slices on serving plate, arranging them in an overlapping circle.

Sprinkle with chiffonaded basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Traditionally this salad is served as the first course, before the main entrĂ©e. 

Salad with Bottles of Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar
Variation: Optional Balsamic

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