I know it's trite, overdone and proffered at every pretentious corner trattoria, but I don't care. Nothing says summer to me like an insalata caprese. I am, of course, something of a snob about the five simple ingredients I use to make this classic dish: mozzarella, basil, tomatoes, olive oil and salt.
First things first: NO RUBBER CHEESE! I realize this sounds a bit pedantic, but I only use fresh buffalo milk mozzarella. If I can't find that (and you can find it in big containers at Costco at less cost than a small container from the supermarket), we eat something else. Period.
Since I do manage to find large quantities of the buffalo mozzarella at Costco, and I then rush to use all the cheese while it is still fresh, we eat a lot of this salad!
Only organic tomatoes. The "conventional" tomatoes are mealy, have no aroma and no flavor. No point in eating them. Plus, they're not so good for you. When I see colorful, heirloom or mixed tomatoes at the market, I use them. They add complexity to the flavor and color to the plate.
Use your absolute best quality olive oil to drizzle over this salad. It should be extra virgin, first cold pressed, yada yada. You know. After all, you're basically eating it straight, so the oil should have a wonderful flavor of its own.
Also, don't be afraid to enhance this however you can. I often add avocado slices, prosciutto and/or melon and then have a light main course, rather than a first course or side dish.
Finally, grind or sprinkle the best sea salt you have over your caprese creation. I keep a mix of sea salt and herbes de provence in my pantry and use it on everything. In fact, one of my husband's favorite activities is to mimic my French pronunciation of "herbes de provence," evoking gales of laughter from our two mid-size angels.
Whatever. It's my flavor panacea. (And I do use it on everything! See how I roast all kinds of vegetables).
If you have any leftover caprese, it makes a wonderful panini. Just put a serving on your favorite bread, press and eat. Buono appetito!
One ball fresh buffalo milk mozzarella
Two pints small, mixed organic tomatoes, or three large organic Roma tomatoes
One bunch fresh basil
Best quality virgin olive oil
Sea salt mixed with herbes de provence
1.Wash and dry tomatoes and basil.
2.Slice the mozzarella and tomatoes thinly.
3.Tear the large basil leaves in half.
4. Arrange ingredients on a platter, alternating each so you have a basil leaf, tomato slice and then a slice of mozzarella, repeating down the line.
5. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
6. Let stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving.
7. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Serve.